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Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I have a crush on Amy Chua. OK not really. She is insane but man, I loved her book. It felt like a breakthrough to me because she does such a fantastic job dissecting the difference between Chinese and Western parenting and what she did was tremendously helpful in me appreciating being Chinese. That revelation is such a treasure to me. Here is an intelligent, incredibly well-educated, strong, headstrong, stubborn, courageous, ridiculously articulate and intense woman who makes me proud to be Chinese and particularly Chinese American. She helped me appreciate being Chinese in a way only someone who straddles both cultures can. And in the end, she admits to being (almost) as dysfunctional as the rest of us. She’s an amazing writer – very concise and much less pretentious (although every bit as elite) than Ayelet Waldman's Bad Mother. She drops big words occasionally but mostly her prose is terse and easy to read. Its just good. And she’s hilarious – total deadpan humor that I love. She’ll totally set you up with the way she writes. Like this line – in reference to the difference between how Jed’s parents and her parents’ traveled she writes “Also, having grown up in the developing world, my parents wouldn’t have gone to Guatemala, Zimbabwe, or Borobudur, Indonesia if someone paid them; they took us to Europe instead, which has governments.”

Her ending was terrible though and it was unavoidable for two reasons 1) her kids are not yet grown so it remains to be seen whether her parenting was truly “successful”, whether its really meaningful to be that good at violin or piano. I suck at violin and I don’t regret it at all. I just regret that I didn’t learn discipline or perseverance from my parents. I think they tried to teach me but I guess they gave up. 2) As a Christian, we know how to end well (or perhaps I should say God knows how to end things well). There’s always a good ending if you’re a Christian. If you’re not religious, it can end hopeful but it always feels a little shallow or contrived. Of course, it can end that if you’re also a Christian but there are so many more possible outcomes – so many much meaning available and so much more hope and freedom when there is death and resurrection.

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