Book review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I’d heard about this book and the criticisms in the United States. Funnily enough, it is my own mother who asked me to read it, and kept following up with me until I bought it.

I think it is a brave and honest book and that Amy Chua brought to light an important aspect in comparing different cultures. I often pondered over some of these things and can relate very easily to some of the differences between Asian and Western cultures. While it has not personally been so in my case, I can totally relate to parents always wanting their children to be first in class, and pushing them into competitions, driving them to success.

When I read the first two chapters, I said to myself ‘OMG, I would hate a mom like that’; but as I read more into the book, I understand that she worked as hard or even harder to perfect her children in their music. I mean, who can write practice notes like that (while working, handling 2 kids and 2 dogs??). Although Amy clearly went overboard with her children (practising when sick and during vacations?!?) and probably took away from their childhood, she instilled the value of excellence in them. And it is hard to do that, to be tough and disliked and taunted and still do it.

Amy is one super tough woman. When she says in her post-script that it is self-incriminating, I totally agree. Right from the start of the book, she does make herself sound like a tyrant and surely she must have left out at least some of the soft, funny, loving moments. Her admission of realizing that she cannot and should not have pushed Lulu is straight from the heart. Admittedly, she is a control freak,and could have gone easy on the kids many times.

While I do not condone such extreme strict parenting, what I feel is that some amount of enforced discipline is required, some amount of choice making for them is required. I know enough people that realize in mid life that they should have pursued some hobbies and could have learnt them better over time. I personally regret not having pursued dancing with more passion and determination and at being very average till date.

Some things are better starting young; and most young achievers have their parents to thank because it is equal, if not more effort on part of the parents.For, you may well allow your children to play every single weekend of their entire life, and if they do not discover a passion on their own then they may have nothing to fall back on (meaning as a hobby). Finally, I realized that great achievements need  extreme hard work and I often chastise myself for not working hard enough. Not being excellent at any one thing in life may not be a life well lived. What this requires though is focus and dedication, and that is my take away from the book.

All in all, I do believe that the book is a bold one, as it is not easy to say the things that Amy did, and must be even more difficult to face all the hate directed at you. My take is that there has to be a middle ground -a place in between Amy’s super-strict parenting and Western parenting as she describes it.And in this place is my hope to raise my daughter to value both her freedom and excellence (and the hard work it takes).