Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (TheByteScene Review)

3 terrible-parenting-techniques out of 4

Despite my opinion of Amy Chua (the essay can be found here), I cannot deny that I love her book (hereby shortened to BHOTTM). No, seriously, while I couldn’t possibly disagree with her message more than I do now, I think that the pseudo memoirs she has written are direct, straightforward, thought provoking, and perhaps the most interesting, most likely entirely true. The book is written from the perspective of Chua (the John M. Duff Jr. professor of law at Yale) during her first 15 or 16 years as a mother and it details her point of view regarding the Chinese mother model and the Western parent model. She argues that the Chinese model works far better and generates far more successes than it’s western counterpart and, while I disagree with the message that the book provides, one can’t help but wonder if that’s really the main point.

I used the phrase “Thought provoking” earlier, and the book makes it startling evident from the onset that the writing is meant to make people think. Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of both models (while criticizing the Western model for being lax and leading to childish insubordination), the memoirs use Chua’s own experiences to showcase her point of view and reasoning in choosing to parent according to the guidelines and doctrine set up by the Chinese model. Suffice it to say, it is evident from the onset that Chua has several issues with her own upbringing, however (most likely due to it) she never really confronts those demons. Her only fear throughout the novel is that her children won’t grow up like she did and will end up being two more “Western” children to add to a growing number of conditional failures.

Therein lies the novel’s main purpose for existing; Chua begins writing these memoirs after an incident with her youngest child in a restaurant in the Russian capital of Moscow, where the child expresses outright disgust with her mother for her forced upbringing. Despite the book’s message, however, there are certain aspects of it that I find cliché and written in a manner only to provide entertainment. The character of Chua is constantly written as a demonic figure (one that the essay critiques at great length), while the youngest child is portrayed as a powerful rebel, going against the tyrannical rule of her dictatorial mother. Simply put, it’s an underdog story for either the mother or the daughter, and (depending on how one was raised, in addition to their own opinions) readers will either root for Chua to enforce discipline, or for Lulu to reject these concepts and form her own opinions.

Additionally, I found that the memoirs also moonlight as a how-to guide for parenting, which took away from the narrative. For example, with each personal moment comes an aside where Chua will detail the importance of such an action in Chinese culture. This is acceptable, and would have been, only if Chua hadn’t written it to seem like propaganda or, perhaps worse, a guide to follow. Chua’s writing style is also relatively simplistic, and not in a minimalist way either. Though, in all fairness, the book is a one time read. For the purposes of this review, I read the book two more times and found that no new information had been presented and nothing else could have be gained from that first, initial reading; Chua writes herself as a tyrant, her youngest daughter as a rebel, and everyone else as nothing more than bystanders caught between the angel and demon figures.

That being said, however, I also noticed that despite the weakness of the writing, and despite the very Western cliche’s that Chua uses (once again proving her hypocrisy), the novel’s main point is to showcase the Chinese mother model and allow the reader to form their own opinions. Though, how Chua reasoned that would happen is beyond me as anyone would view her treatment of her children as reason enough to call social services, though that may be a very Western way of thinking; then again, even most Eastern parents are smart enough to tell their children that life is hard and that one needs to be prepared for those hardships during their upbringing, in a better and more reasonable fashion than Chua did.

The point is, the novel asks the reader to think about the two models and to choose between them, though that leads to another question: the novel asks the reader to choose, but why must we choose between one or the other when it would be far more logical to incorporate both standards? This is the one point that Chua fails to grasp throughout her writing: there is a middle ground; though that is a minor digression. In essence, the novel is a simple way of looking at the Chinese mother model and does more than a fine job of posing very real and very thought provoking questions to the reader. Despite my criticism of her and her novel, Chua is without a doubt, a very brave individual not only for releasing her own story, but for also attempting to change and challenge strongly ingrained Western views in an increasingly modernizing world. I would strongly recommend the novel to anyone with half a mind though I must make one final point before I continue: under any circumstance, whether you choose East, West or both, do not raise your children like Amy Chua has; you will find that doing so will lead to more heartbreak and turmoil than is healthy in any human relationship.

As always, this has been your Admin; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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