428 of 471 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2011
I give the book three stars because it seems to me an honest account of the author's family life. It's even funny at times, when I'm not aching for her daughters. I listened to the audio book read by Ms Chua herself and she reads well. She's certainly very talented. Otherwise I'd rate the book one star.
Ms Chua claims herself a representative of Chinese mothers. I'm a native Chinese and came to this country with an advanced degree earned in China -- I'm no stranger to educating children the Chinese way. Yet I don't treat my children as she does and I know that most of the Chinese in the US (and in China, for that matter) don't "educate" their children in that extreme fashion. From reading the book I believe that her philosophies and behaviors are largely due to her seriously flawed personality. I list some revealing examples below. Since I don't have the paper copy handy, my quotes are not accurate to every word.
* When she learned that her dog was not among the most intelligent breeds, she felt "nauseated". To her, everyone, everything is a tool for competition.
* She bitterly criticizes the American "shopping mall" materialism. Yet she herself is a huge spender. To celebrate her daughter's Carnegie Hall debut, she threw a party that cost the family's winter AND summer vacations. How she spends her money is her own business. But condemning others for going to the mall? That sounds hypocritical to me.
* She has a strong sense of superiority that shows here and there throughout the book. She says some white men have "yellow fever". They would date any Asian woman, "no matter how ugly she is and what part of Asia she is from". That's deeply racist and offending.
* When I started reading the book, I puzzled over her statement "This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs." Where is her husband? It turns out he is the rock, the sane parent in the family. Then I find it extremely arrogant for Ms Chua to omit her husband's essential role in the story. Why mention only the daughters and the dogs? Because they can be controlled and bent by Ms Chua's will of steel?
Overall, I feel Ms Chua's story has less to do with being Chinese and more with her extreme, distorted world view.
807 of 937 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2011
People who are taking this book the wrong way (particularly those who read the excerpt in the newspapers and not the book itself) are missing the big picture. The book is a memoir, and Chua tells her story no-holds-barred. Her mother is a central figure and her discipline (right or wrong) has shaped who Chua has become. Like all of us, Chua has had to find the good in her parents, particularly the good in their intentions (even when they aren't easy to find). Those who are treating this as a parenting manual advocating parents raise their children the way Chua was raised either haven't read the book or have completely missed the point.
You also get to go along with Chua as she raises her two daughters. They had incredibly strict rules to follow: no play dates, no sleepovers, and two hours a day of instrument practice. You see that her parenting isn't perfect in their achievements: the oldest played in Carnegie Hall at the age of 14 and the youngest...well I don't want to give away one of the best parts of the story but lets just say they had different paths. You live her struggle with a parenting style that's seen as extreme in America.
Even though I'm deeply implanted in the "lax" Western style of parenting, I still related deeply to the struggles of raising children. The book is hilarious and shocking in places. The kind of book you can't put down. The transformation Chua moves through is powerful. Her writing still is brisk and lively and you're sure to empathize with her struggles and her dreams. The book is striking a chord with so many because it hits hard at the questions we all must answer for ourselves in life: love, achievement, self-esteem, ambition, pride... She doesn't ultimately answer the question for anyone, she just tells her story in a way that's so real and so powerful that you'll never forget it.
I Love Yous Are for White People: A Memoir (P.S.) (the title derived from his father's mantra) is another book you'll absolutely want to check out. There are some amazing stories out there about parenting, and these two are told with power.
340 of 397 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2011
As an Asian-American myself, I was raised by parents who believed in the "Chinese" parenting philosophy that Amy Chua espouses in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Because of my background, I took this book very personally. How could I not?
I imagine that most people are drawn to this book because of the WSJ article, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." Is the book just more of the article? For the most part, yes.
In this memoir type of a book, Amy Chua sets out the dreams she has for her daughters and recounts her relentless pursuit of those dreams at all costs. Her stories alone would not be so offensive had she not tied them all together with the assertion that the Chinese parenting philosophy produces better progeny than the Western parenting philosophy.
First of all, I completely disagree with the Chinese parenting philosophy. It is true that the Chinese parenting philosophy might produce high achieving children. But it is equally true that it might produce some very miserable ones. There is a cost in terms of time, energy, missed social interaction, and mental health.
Amy Chua casually dismisses the idea of any harm to self-esteem, but I couldn't disagree more. Perhaps it's true that Amy's two daughters don't have any self-esteem problems. But their mental health may be attributed to just plain luck rather than to Amy - that is, nature rather than nurture. If Amy had more sensitive children, I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up in the mental hospital.
In the book, Amy Chua spends a disproportionate amount of time on her daughters' musical pursuits. Although learning either the piano or violin is commonplace in Asian households, there is also typically emphasis on SAT prep, supplementary math studies, and learning Chinese. Amy Chua does touch upon some non-music goals, but most of her book focuses on the piano and violin.
Hence, I often got the impression that Amy Chua wished that she herself could be the piano player or violin player that she made her children become. She devoured, digested, and regurgitated all of the music theory taught by her daughter's music teachers. She recruited the best teachers and even arranged for both of her daughters to practice while traveling. Yes, she even hunted down pianos in Europe just so that her daughter would never miss a day of practicing. Then when it was time for her daughters to perform, Amy Chua seemed to experience stage fright from the comfort of her seat in the audience. Perhaps she knew that she wasn't able to do what her daughters did. Her level of obsession with her daughters' musical performances seemed to be not just on a different level, but on a different planet than many of the Asian-Americans I know.
At the beginning, Amy Chua framed the book by stating that she was humbled by her youngest daughter Lulu, who rebelled against the harsh parenting tactics of her mother and took up tennis. But I found this so-called "humbling" to be disingenuous. It was contrived. Amy even mentions how she had a difficult time coming up with how to end the book. I don't buy that she was humbled by Lulu. She didn't have an awakening. Lulu simply was more stubborn and won the war with her mother. Besides, tennis isn't even outside of the Asian-American comfort zone. It's not like Lulu took up cheerleading.
If you strip the book of its parenting manifesto message, then there are some redeeming qualities. For one, it does provide a glimpse into the lives of many children of Asian descent in America, albeit, a bit an extreme example. For all those who wonder why Asians are the most educated ethnic/race group in America, and yet are grossly under-represented in executive leadership positions, this book offers some insight. The Chinese parenting philosophy demands hard work, high results, but virtually no innovation.
Second, the book is funny. I laughed out loud when, in an argument with her husband, Amy Chua demanded to know what dreams he had for their dog Coco. That was the funniest part of the book. Much of the time, her words were spot on. I laughed because I related. And then, there were times when her anecdotes were so over the top that they were hilarious.
Lastly, I commend Amy Chua for being ridiculously honest. It definitely takes some guts to go that public with some of her horrifying and near-CPS-worthy parenting decisions.
Overall, my recommendation of this short book is mixed. I cannot stand the fact that she truly believes in the Chinese parenting philosophy. On the other hand, it's entertaining and good fodder for discussion.
**Edited on 6/12/15 to remove the line "Indeed, statistically speaking, Asian-American girls have the highest suicide rate among any race or ethnic group in the 15-24 age group," because I cannot find the citation to back this claim. I know I read it somewhere, but I can no longer find that source.
421 of 513 people found the following review helpful
I first heard of Ms. Chua on NPR and read her book in a single setting. As a mother adamantly in favor of emphasizing education, I actually went into this thinking people needed to worry more about what kind of parents they are, then about Ms. Chua's (or anyone else's) childrearing philosophy. I feel like the world would be a far better place if we all focused a whole lot more on what WE do, and a whole lot less on what others do, or don't do. I still believe that, but admit I was completely turned off by the smugness and arrogance which dominates the telling of this tale of a tyrannical mother who controls every single aspect of her daughter's lives.
This is not so much a memoir of motherhood, but a manifesto to justify what frequently veers into abusive behavior, in a 21st century parent of any ethnicity. I gave the book two stars because it was certainly thought-provoking (even if the thoughts were of disgust and anger), but, while I found it a quick read, I didn't think the writing style itself was compelling and can't even recommend it as entertainment.
Ms. Chua's congratulatory self-delusion that she has improved her childrens' lives and made them such amazing successes is wildly premature, to cite just one of many problems with her hypothesis. Neither of her daughters has yet to reach adulthood, and their future, successful or otherwise, is very much a moving target. As someone educated at Harvard who now works at Yale, as Ms. Chua points out ad nauseaum, the author should be well aware that success in the classroom is NOT directly indicative of success in life.
Any college graduate, from either the best or worst school, knows that grades matter little after graduation, and if you're still talking about your cum laude at 40, it's likely because you've done very little since. The only thing it appears to me that Ms. Chua's Ivy League education taught her was that controversy clearly sells books.
I found nothing edifying or redemptive about this story. The turn around hinted at in the subtitle, Ms. Chua's so-called "retreat" after her youngest teen daughter calls her out (for the umpteenth time), seems disingenuous, at best, especially since it is followed by quite a bit of self-praise for said daughter's tennis prowess, which Ms. Chua once again credits to her mothering methods, despite the fact she previously didn't allow her daughter to participate in sports. Sure, Ms. Chua is no longer denying her preschoolers potty breaks or throwing them into the snow ... But only, I'd argue, because she no longer has preschoolers, not because she actually thinks she did anything wrong. Allowing her younger daughter the merest sliver of self-expression is kind of like dropping a grain of sand over a cliff and claiming you've filled the Grand Canyon.
For those that say Ms. Chua's writing is "witty" or "self-aware," I also disagree. I concede that she seems honest (though we can't know what she withheld; she certainly knew what she did share would be seen negatively by most), but she is the farthest thing from self-aware I've ever seen, blindly insisting that her methods were, in fact, "successful." She actually seems, up until the final page, quite proud of herself. Not her daughters, mind you, but herself. For Ms. Chua, parenting is an ego trip, pure and simple.
And funny? I could see where she was trying to lighten the darkness of her daughters' tale, but it came off as clunky and stilted and made this reader feel decidedly uncomfortable.
To call this style of parenting "Chinese" is Ms. Chua using her ethnicity solely for sensationalism. Her shameless use, and mis-use, of Asian stereotypes and misleading statistics is not only ill-considered, but downright implausible. Parents of her ilk have always existed, in every society, but the style has never emerged as an accepted standard, perhaps because it doesn't, despite Ms. Chua's insistence, actually work all that well. In short, cruelty, no matter what your skin tone, is not a successful parenting strategy. At best Ms. Chua's method will lead to technically astute, but emotionally stunted individuals incapable of free thought or self-motivation. Well-designed followers with modest expectations of fulfilling ONLY the minimum required to avoid reprimand; all of which is the exact opposite of exceptional.
Perhaps even more offensive than her personal tale, Ms. Chua also uses this book as a screed against what she terms "Western" parenting, in which she contends that anyone who dares to raise their child with kindness, affection and praise is condemning them to a future of, "you want fries with that." If there is anything less attractive than her attitude towards her own family, it is Ms. Chua's undeniable Schadenfreude in describing children she thinks have gone awry due to what she feels is lax parenting. You can practically hear her cackling with glee as she describes mothers who "allowed" their children to be second-best, therefore, by Ms. Chua's twisted logic, giving her daughters a leg up.
And though Ms. Chua praises herself endlessly for how much harder she works as a mother than any "Western" parent, I agree with another reviewer who said she's actually doing the easiest thing of all: letting anger and frustration guide her actions; enacting petty revenge on her daughters every time they fail to perfectly please her. Those are the actions of a petulant child--'You didn't do what I want, when I wanted it, now I'm mad at you and am going to make you mad or sad too'--not a Harvard-educated adult.
Of particular interest was Ms. Chua's proffering of "proof" that she loves her daughters, and they love her in return, by pointing out how after her worst outbursts they would often climb into bed and cuddle with her. Has this very smart woman never heard that seeking affection from an abuser is a classic response by the abused? And I'm not giving Ms. Chua's husband a pass either ... No parent should be allowed to stand by and watch his childrens' dignity repeatedly destroyed. That this book exists is a testament to how stupid two really so-called "smart" people can be. (I would argue Ms. Chua has displayed a stunning dearth of emotional intelligence, a critical component of intellect, in both her writing and defense of this book.)
What Ms. Chua provided with her "Battle Hymn" is a startling, and sad, example of parents who gave their children every material, genetic and educational advantage, but still left their children woefully emotionally needy.
I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that overly permissive and "self-esteem boasting" parenting of the kind that refuses to keep score at soccer games or awards every child a medal because, "they're all winners," is an issue in American society today. But the answer is not the opposite extreme; just as the solution to America's obesity epidemic is not anorexia.
To be clear: what is appalling about Ms. Chua as a parent are not her expectations, but her methods. You can make the argument that setting such lofty, almost unattainable, goals is too much pressure, or you can say it's inspiring--both positions have merit--but it's the physical and mental manipulations Ms. Chua applied to achieve her end result that should set off alarm bells. Depriving her daughters of every social tie, regularly shaming and humiliating them in the most abject and cruel ways (in the name of "encouragement"), verbally destroying them on a near daily basis, threatening prize possessions, withholding basic affection and even sustenance, denying physical pain, ignoring illness ... All are not a differing parental philosophy, but out-and-out abuse. As she describes standing over her not-yet-school-age children for hours on end, denying them sleep, water and bathroom breaks in an effort to gain proficiency on instruments not of their choosing, which Ms. Chua has no desire to see them excel at beyond college application fodder, I thought: this isn't a mother, this is a prison warden.
The reality is that Ms. Chua's daughters, so meticulously guided and bullied, are not very different from a child allowed to run completely wild, and I'd venture that both parenting styles leave subjects in serious danger of long-term negative consequences from their respective childhood experiences. Mostly because neither imparts the most important skills any parent can bestow on their child: the ability to accurately and independently assess a situation, including their own innate strengths and weaknesses, set goals and intuit a way to achieve them independently. Those are the abilities that truly indicate who will be a successful as an adult, not test scores, piano concertos or even IQ.
In fact, you can easily argue that the most successful members of any society are those that veer of the traditional educational path. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg, Jerry Yang ... All revolutionary minds and unquestionably some of the smartest guys alive. And all billionaires that dropped out of college to pursue a dream that changed the world. Even if Ms. Chua's daughters were to have an idea of such staggering brilliance, Ms. Chua would never allow them to pursue it, robbing them of the very greatness she thinks she's instilling, all because of her rigid rules.
You can stress education, optimize an environment for success and encourage your children to hold THEMSELVES to very high standards. You can make sure they have the best teachers, the best materials and the best opportunities available, but you can NOT "make" your children "the best" at anything. After all, statistically there can be only one "best" at any particular endeavor, but many who are worthy. Ms. Chua's delusion that being ranked No. 1 in an arbitrary group or class makes her daughters "the best" borders on pathological.
Ms. Chua's comments about her daughters' weight, along with class rank, early Ivy League admission status and "the right" public performance (i.e. Carnegie Hall), are very telling as to her utter superficiality. She doesn't really care if her daughters ARE successful, as long as they LOOK successful. Ms. Chua's own admission that she is unable to be happy should be proof enough that a degree from Harvard is not a good life guarantee.
In the end, Ms. Chua's conclusion that her parenting style was triumphant based on a Carnegie Hall performance and Yale early admission is simply nonsense. Does she credit the fact that as a published Yale professor the odds her daughter would be accepted increased exponentially? And, not to deride her daughter's efforts in any way, but performing at Carneige Hall is as much about who you know, who your teacher is and where you train, as it is about talent and skill. Yes, you have to have the latter, but it's clearly easier for a New England student from an affluent family, with a teacher that has ties to the New York City classical scene, to score a performance slot, than even the most gifted prodigy from, say, small-town Iowa whose only guidance comes from a retired school teacher that lives on their block.
In fact, Ms. Chua ignores or diminishes every factor---genetics, money, privilege, outside educators, nannies---other than her "Chinese" parenting style, that contributed to her daughters' undeniably impressive academic and musical accomplishments. Unfortunately, Sophie and Lulu will never know if they could have been raised with kindness, affection and joy AND excelled academically and musically. They will never have the chance to discover what else they may have been great at, or where their own interests could have taken them, because autonomy didn't fit into their mother's plan for their lives.
The odds I most hope Ms. Chua's daughters can beat are those that would indicate they will be emotionally stunted and damaged by their mother's actions, as she clearly was by her own oppressive parents. I fervently hope they will break that cycle and reeducate themselves to what is truly valuable once out of their mother's destructive sphere. And if Ms. Chua's daughters do achieve true success in life I firmly believe, after reading this harrowing tale of their childhood, it will be in spite of their mother, not because of her.
183 of 221 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2011
I am a Chinese who came to the US at age 23 and got married with my wife of similar background. I found this book an absolute insult to the real typical "Chinese" parenting method. My parents, like many others, were strict in educating me and my sister in terms of academic performance, sports (I am so grateful to have my life-long hobby of soccer and play weekly in a league), music (I am an avid classical guitar player) and social skills. But they never frightened or abused me. In fact they merely showed me the door and let me chose. For example I was given violin lessons and allowed to quit in a month - I found it so painful to hear the squeaky sound. I was allowed to choose what major to concentrate on instead of "you must study business because you will make more money..." I ended up choosing computer engineering and couldn't be happier with my choice.
We have 2 girls, age 10 and 6. Although we are strict in sending our girls to a nice private school near we live, making sure they complete their homework (including the bonus questions) every night, controlling the amount of TV hours (we don't allow them to watch what's on the cable channels. We "make" them watch high quality classic movies such as "Marry Poppins", "Sound of Music" and etc), helping them find an exciting sport (they both ended up with swimming, after we allow them to try golf, soccer and tennis.), and encouraging them to get outside our comfort zone of Chinese culture to learn from those whose predecessors had been here a lot longer. I am deeply disturbed by the stereotype and insult that the author created to not only us as a typical Chinese family but also other ethinity groups.
I feel like apologizing on her behalf to the "western" group. We are not what she described, and although we believe in many aspects of our Chinese parenting approach, we also quite respect the way kids are raised here in terms of emphasis on "social skills", "art and literature", and "the importance of having fun and finding their real passions and interests".
159 of 193 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2011
I cringed (not chuckled) as I listened to the author read this book, choosing the audio version, so there could be no debate about her intended voice as she spoke the words. I imagined what living with this woman was like, and I was haunted by her words, "I don't know how to have fun", and thought to myself now she wants to make sure that no one else in her family does either!. In some states, what she did to her children has to be considered illegal and absolute emotional child abuse. Does she attempt humor in the book? Yes, but it falls flat against the backdrop of the emotional abuse of her children. She takes comfort that after she abuses them they hug her, seeking out love from the abusive parent, while the husband does nothing to stop the abuse.
She boasts that the children never took a day off from piano practice, even when sick with a fever or after oral surgery (she just shoves painkillers at her daughters and commands them to practice). After playing piano for hours and hours one day, one daughter was hungry for dinner at 5:30PM. Mommy dearest responds with "no, no dinner until 9:00PM because you must practice for hours more." I suppose if the societal challenge was escape from the gulag, her extreme parenting would help toughen us up for the challenge. But this portrait of the childhood she stole from her daughters is pathetic. She is so narcissistic and delusional: she has convinced herself that she does this all for her childrens' benefits. You won't be fooled though when you hear her description of the room at the St. Regis and the food and the bussed in friends. She is so transparent. When she states "we gave up the violin", you know you've met this type of lunatic parent before. Can you imagine Michael Phelps's mother saying "we gave up swimming"? This is what did it for me: When grandmother begged for one single day, just one whole day, to spend with her granddaughters, this mother (the author) did not allow it. The grandmother is now dead--no more wasted days with Grandma--off to more piano practice.
She tries, unconvincingly, to show her "softer" side toward her dogs, but when a mother is willing to endlessly berate and dominate her children year after year after year, do we really care that she was "low key" as a dog owner? She is so unlikeable as a human being that by the end of the book if you had asked me to choose between being stuck in an elevator for 3 hours with Amy Chua or Glenn Beck, I would choose to endure Glenn Beck. The frightening aspect of this book is that the mother couldn't see that she actually put her younger child at real risk--if the book had ended in the child's suicide, you would honestly have said to yourself, "well I could see that coming". Thank God the child liberates herself from her mother with no more damage than a bad haircut and bad memories.
As far as Western parenting, you can set high standards and high expectations without emotionally abusing your children. I'll take our Western parented outcomes of Steve Jobs, Jon Stewart, Michael Phelps, Hilary Clinton, and Sonja Sotomayer any day over her control freak, abusive parenting. These high achievers all had lots of fun and play in their lives, and they likely all had some "whole days" with their grandmas.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2013
I was interested when I read that her daughter was so good that she won a competition - international no less - and subsequently had her "Carnegie Hall debut". In the English version, she concedes it was actually Weill Hall. In the Chinese version, she doesn't bother to mention it is the small hall.
In addition, the competition - Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition - which is competition created by a music store, has multiple first place winners - there were at least 50 winners in some categories. You submit a recording - no one hears you in person. You send in a CD with your $150. Everyone wins or gets "second prize". Your prize? You get to say you had a Carnegie hall debut. No money. Not even your money back - that's how they pay for the hall.
Essentially, there was no "Carnegie Hall Debut". It was a student recital where kids paid $150 to rent the hall.
373 of 458 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2011
As an Asian American woman and a "Chinese" mother, I find this book disturbing in its negative stereotyping of Chinese and Chinese American parents. I have known dozens of "Chinese" mothers - immigrants and American born alike - and none who have parented as this author. As a Harvard undergraduate during the years that the author was there, I do not recall the author attending any of the many meetings or social occasions held by the Asian students on campus. Although the book discusses the author's "Chinese" upbringing, and refers to the Chinese food that she loved as a child and the "high culture" of her Chinese ancestors, there is little in the book to indicate that the author is, or considers herself to be, part of a larger community or network of Asians or Chinese in America, an affiliation that's critical if the author's voice is to be heard as at all representative of that community. Chinese and Asian parents run the gamut, and there are certain to be extremes, as in any race.
The author's statement at the beginning of the book that she uses the term "Chinese mother" loosely, and that the term "Chinese mother" can include non-Chinese mothers and even non-Chinese fathers, does not save her from a perception among many that she has exploited her ethnicity -- and Chinese people -- to sell this book. If the definition of "Chinese mother" is that loose or broad, why use the term at all? The author tells readers that she knows "some" Chinese mothers who don't practice her method of parenting, but she doesn't tell us how many Chinese mothers she knows that employ her parenting method, or, as importantly, what proportion of Chinese or Chinese American mothers have parented their children as she has. Her book leaves the unfortunate impression that the extreme practices she employed during her daughters' formative years - practices that have been roundly condemned by the American public as extreme and abusive - could well be the norm among Chinese American parents. That impression is reinforced not only by the many references in her book to "The Chinese way," "Chinese parents," "Chinese mothers," the "Chinese strategy," or the "Chinese method," but as well by her standing as a Yale Law School professor.
What the author presents in her book as "the Chinese way" is based not on any unique research she has undertaken, but on her own upbringing by ethnic Chinese parents who grew up in the Philippines, and emigrated to the United States from there, not China. The author refers to "tons of studies out there showing differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting." What the author doesn't say is whether the Chinese parents surveyed in those studies adopted the extreme tactics - withholding food, water, and other basic necessities - that were publicized in the mainstream media as "the Chinese way."
In recent days, under fire from both Western and Chinese parents, the author has "retreated," reversing course and shifting her emphasis in comments that have appeared in written, audiotaped, and videotaped interviews in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNN, and the Today Show. She is uncomfortable when asked about "the Chinese way," and says that her story is really an "immigrant" story, using phrases such as the "strict immigrant model" and the "tough immigrant way." She emphasizes that her book is a "memoir," and not a how-to manual. And she (to CNN), and in one interview alongside her husband (NPR), has stated that the "Chinese" values embedded in her book are really "traditional American" values that today's generation of Western mothers have lost sight of. With these statements, the author is effectively acknowledging that her book's repeated references to "the Chinese way" and to "Chinese" parents, mothers, methods and strategy, were poorly chosen and unsupportable. But is a one week publicity tour adequate to address a defect of this importance in a book that remains in print as originally written? Might a responsible publisher, and an author whose life work is supposedly dedicated to scholarship, consider altering the book to remedy this defect?
Having read the book, I do not deny that the book is at times funny, the author at times self-deprecating, and that at the end of the book the author is humbled. But there are also instances in which the author is dead serious, as when she introduces the story about her daughter's perfecting The Little White Donkey with the sentence "Here's a story in favor of coercion, Chinese-style," and congratulates herself by noting that her reluctant husband agreed that the coercive tactics she used had achieved her goal.
If some parents find value in reading this book because it causes them to reflect on their own parenting styles -- even if they deplore or disapprove of the author's parenting method -- fine. Had the book's storyline been presented as a "memoir" written by a daughter of strict, high-achieving immigrants, the same reflections about parenting styles could have occurred. But this "memoir" -- written by a law school professor in whom the general public might otherwise have little interest -- would not have captured the attention of the American public without a hook. A book written about "Chinese mothers" and "the Chinese way," however, might intrigue the American public.
The important lesson to be learned from this book is found not within its pages, but from the public outcry that ensued. We are reminded of the importance of playdates and socialization, and the dangers of pursuing academic excellence and perfectionism to the exclusion of everything else. A child raised in that fashion might become overconfident, unaware of or indifferent to the society around her, and write a book about "Chinese mothers" that isn't really about Chinese mothers, all the while believing that the benefit to society from a book written in that fashion could outweigh the harm it could cause.
Reviewer's note: The above is an expanded version of a review I wrote on January 12, 2011. This expanded version was written on January 19, 2011.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2011
I am from Taiwan. I spent the weekend to read two books. One is Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in English and the other one is "Thank you, my son---A father's regret" in Chinese by Mr. Jing who is also a professor in Taiwan. The latter story is sad that Mr. Jing exercised a strict parenting in his family and insulted his elder son on his bad grades like Amy Chua did. The pain actually rooted in the son's heart. Then, when the son was 24 years old and left Taiwan in 2007, he emailed to his family not to email him or call him anymore. In short, he decided to disconnect his family since he cannot bear the words of killing his self-esteem from his family members who love him most and hurt him most.
I also googled some comments in Chinese to understand how most Chinese in the USA, Taiwan and China to think about Chua's book. Well, most disagreed her parenting by scolding children and overemphasizing the academic/musical performance but some agreed in some ways. Thus, I highly doubted why the author could refer the so-called "Chinese parenting" which more than 50% or much more of modern Chinese do not agree with. Also, I am suspicious when reading "... In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that "stressing academic success is not good for children" or that "parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun." By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. " . Maybe the statistic needs more samples to make it more convincing.
Based on my personal experience, I think the following should be noted:
1. I think her daughters' success (if it can be defined so) actually is based on the "deliberate practice" which Geoff Colvin mentioned in the book of "Talent is overrated". However, Amy Chua seems to conclude the success is attributed to her Chinese parenting by forcing, threatening and ordering her daughters to make it. I think the conclusion is misled since I have seen my friends adopted different ways to successfully raise their children.
In some ways, I have to admit Chua's way probably works well when the child is young or she/he is obedient. Then, what would happen when the child becomes 14 or older or if the child refuses to follow like her younger daughter did? The result might lead the child go to the other extreme, including hurting oneself or disconnecting the family afterwards.
I personally think that the child has to find his/her inner voice to tell oneself "I want to do it". Otherwise, the prodigy's success is temporary.
2. Some values discussed in this book are still commonly believed by most Chinese but depend on "how" the parents convey them to their children. Chinese are smart learners and have been evolving in parenting. In some ways, we actually adopt the western baptism in education. For example, in Taiwan, there are many parenting books translated from American writers and many educators advocate that parents should encourage children in more healthy ways, not by insulting children. In the meantime, we'll still tell children the Chinese old sayings, such as "Bitterness first and sweetness later."; "Eating bitterness is eating nutrition." and "Hard-working in necessary to succeed." We also emphasize to respect parents and teachers as well as show empathy or sympathy to people. Thus, I will remind my child like Amy Chua did when her daughter made fun of someone's foreign accent. To me, the moral deviation is even worse than the grade of C or D.
3. Do Chinese pay a lot of attention to academic performance? Yes, for Chinese in Taiwan, China and the USA. However, the phenomenon has its historical reasons. Since Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty around AD 605, the so-called "Imperial examination" has been established to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. Nowadays, we abandoned the imperial system but use the "examination system" for students to get into colleges in Taiwan and mainland China. Thus, those students with high academic performance always win praise from parents, relatives and the society. People in Taiwan and China prefer the examination system to the "application system" in the USA. The students in Peking University in China or Taiwan University in Taiwan are treated as gifted elites with good future. This is the only way for children in poor families to succeed and stand out in past decades. The belief is hard to get rid of. Nonetheless, many Chinese in the USA who are scholars or professionals actually were the winners of the examination system. I personally think that's the reason why the Chinese in the USA even push their children harder than those in Taiwan. Actually Chinese parents in Taiwan have seen more children successful in different areas, such as Ang Lee(Director, Oscar winner), Yani Tseng(The new world No.1 Lady's golfer), and Jason Wu(a fashion designer of Michelle Osama's), etc. The parents in Taiwan are more open-minded and encourage their children to try something else.
4. I also would like point out why I disagree with Amy Chua's parenting. I have found those children who are always reminded "NOT GOOD ENOUGH" by their parents usually lack self-confidence inside. Indeed the reminder might be a motive for children to work hard but it hurts too. I think that explains why, Amy Chua, a Yale professor with two Harvard degrees, would yell to her daughters "My goal as a parent is to prepare you for the future, not like me." It seems the self-denying sign of "Not good enough" has carved deeply in Amy Chua and those people with similar background like her.
5. Regarding the "Westerners", I think her points are wrong in some ways. For example, she mentioned that westerners never take care of their parents when the parents are old. I have many American friends who take care of their parents even better than we are in Taiwan. Because the labor cost is much cheaper in Asia. It is very common that a family in Taiwan or mainland China spends US$600(in Taiwan) or US$300 or less (in China) a month to have a 24 hour housekeeper. Then it's easier for the old parents to stay with the family or to live at home near their children instead of a nursing home. In the States, the situation is totally different. I don't think the American seniors living in a nursing home should be regarded as "abandoned" old people by their children.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2013
As an Asian American daughter and mother, I was eager to read this book after all of the controversy surrounding it. I waited until my local library got it so I wouldn't have to spend any money. After reading it, boy, I'm glad I didn't give Amy Chua any of my money. I'm sure that with all of the publicity, she is already laughing all the way to the bank.
I found the book to be poorly written, full of prejudiced generalizations about groups of people, offensive and boring. She seems really narrow-minded and shallow, despite her high level of education. For example, she talks about the kids she didn't get along with and how it's ok because "those kids are janitors now" (I'm paraphrasing since I don't have the book in front of me). What a horrible thing to say. My Asian immigrant parents would never have said something like that - what I learned from them was that there is nothing wrong or shameful about an honest job and hard work, no matter what you do.
This woman clearly thinks she is better than everyone else, and that "success" can be measured only by playing at Carnegie Hall, studying with a violin teacher who has had students "perform at the White House," having a reception with shrimp and lobster and steaks and etc. etc. (manically long list of foods she bought for her daughter's reception) or visiting France and Spain and Germany and England and South Africa and Zimbabwe and Japan etc. etc. (manically long list of countries where she's taken her kids). She takes a very superficial knowledge of the music world and violin and piano pedagogy and uses it to show off how knowledgeable or cultured she is. Reading those passages, as the wife of a professional musician and music teacher (who deals daily with parents like this) I was honestly embarrassed for her.
With regard to her parenting discliplinary style, even her own parents berate her for pushing her younger daughter too hard. She has taken some concept of parenting and twisted and perverted it into something it was never meant to be.
While reading it, I found myself wondering how her husband could put up with her abusive ranting and raving, and allow his children to be subjected to it. But then I remembered, ah, yes, this is a tongue-in-cheek memoir. No doubt many things were exaggerated for the benefit of the audience, and when we get all up in arms and foaming at the mouth, we're playing right into her hands and making her book even more popular! So I'll just say this - at the end of the day, here is a woman whose book is disturbingly bereft of anything about how she wants to raise her kids to be good, kind or compassionate people - and goodness and kindness seem to have no presence in her definition of success for them. If you're wondering whether her parenting style is good, that would seem to provide the answer.