Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Chua)

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Amy Chua
Penguin Group USA
256 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781594202841

An awe-inspiring, often hilarious, and unerringly honest story of one mother's exercise in extreme parenting, revealing the rewards-and the costs-of raising her children the Chinese way.

All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua's iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way—the Chinese way—and the remarkable results her choice inspires.

Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do:

• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin

The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin.

Of course no one is perfect, including Chua herself. Witness this scene—"According to Sophia, here are three things I actually said to her at the piano as I supervised her practicing:

  1. Oh my God, you're just getting worse and worse.
  2. I'm going to count to three, then I want musicality.
  3. If the next time's not PERFECT, I'm going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!"

But Chua demands as much of herself as she does of her daughters. And in her sacrifices-the exacting attention spent studying her daughters' performances, the office hours lost shuttling the girls to lessons-the depth of her love for her children becomes clear.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an eye-opening exploration of the differences in Eastern and Western parenting- and the lessons parents and children everywhere teach one another. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Champaign, Illinois, USA
Education—B.A., J.D., Harvard University
Currently—lives in New Haven, Connecticut

Amy L. Chua is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. She joined the Yale faculty in 2001 after teaching at Duke Law School. Prior to starting her teaching career, she was a corporate law associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. She specializes in the study of international business transactions, law and development, ethnic conflict, and globalization and the law. She is widely known for her parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011), and The Triple Package (2014), co-authored with her husband Jed Rubenfeld.

Chua was born in Champaign, Illinois. Her parents were ethnic Chinese from the Philippines who emigrated to the United States. Amy's father, Leon O. Chua, is an Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences professor at the University of California, Berkeley and is known as the father of nonlinear circuit theory, cellular neural networks, and discovered the memristor. She was raised as a Roman Catholic and lived in West Lafayette, Indiana.

When she was eight years old, her family moved to Berkeley, California. Chua went to El Cerrito High School and graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College in 1984. She obtained her J.D. cum laude in 1987 from Harvard Law School, where she was an Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Chua has written four books: two studies of international affairs, a memoir and her latest on Ethnic-American culture.

World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (2003), explores the ethnic conflict caused in many societies by disproportionate economic and political influence of "market dominant minorities" and the resulting resentment in the less affluent majority. The book—a New York Times Bestseller, was selected by The Economist as one of the Best Books of 2003 and was named in The Guardian as one of the "Top Political Reads of 2003"—examines how globalization and democratization since 1989 have affected the relationship between market dominant minorities and the wider population.

Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance—and Why They Fall (2007), examines seven major empires and posits that their success depended on their tolerance of minorities.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011), is a memoir that ignited a global parenting debate with its story of one mother’s journey in strict parenting techniques.

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America (2014) outlines three personal traits that make for individual success. It is co-authored with Jed Rubenfeld, her husband.

Chua lives in New Haven, Connecticut and is married to Yale Law School professor Jed Rubenfeld. She has two daughters, Sophia and Louisa ("Lulu"). She is the eldest of four sisters: Michelle, Katrin, and Cynthia. Katrin is a physician and a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. Cynthia, who has Down Syndrome, holds two International Special Olympics gold medals in swimming. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 2/18/2014.)

Book Reviews
So many parenting memoirs capture the various ways the authors' children have taken them to hell and back. Refreshingly, and perhaps uniquely, Chua instead catalogs the various ways she tortured her two young daughters, all in the name of Chinese tradition and the goal of reaching Carnegie Hall…Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is entertaining, bracingly honest and, yes, thought-provoking.
Susan Dominus - New York Times Book Review

Readers will alternately gasp at and empathize with Chua's struggles and aspirations, all the while enjoying her writing, which, like her kid-rearing philosophy, is brisk, lively and no-holds-barred. This memoir raises intriguing, sometimes uncomfortable questions about love, pride, ambition, achievement and self-worth that will resonate among success-obsessed parents.
Elizabeth Chang - Washington Post

This is one outrageous book, partly thanks to Amy Chua's writing style - Chua is pugnacious and blunt, with an unerring nose for the absurd ...The cultural divide Chua so brilliantly captures is one we stand to witness more and more in our globalized age, after all; and what with Asia and Asian achievement looming ever larger in the American imagination, the issues inherent in Battle Hymn are as important as they are entertaining... I was riveted by this book.
Gish Jen - Boston Globe

Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother did more than speak to me. It screamed, shouted and lectured me. It made me simultaneously laugh with empathy and cringe with embarrassment and exasperation... Charming... Self-effacing... Guffaw-inducing.
Terry Hong - San Francisco Chronicle

Chua (Day of Empire) imparts the secret behind the stereotypical Asian child's phenomenal success: the Chinese mother. Chua promotes what has traditionally worked very well in raising children: strict, Old World, uncompromising values--and the parents don't have to be Chinese. What they are, however, are different from what she sees as indulgent and permissive Western parents: stressing academic performance above all, never accepting a mediocre grade, insisting on drilling and practice, and instilling respect for authority. Chua and her Jewish husband (both are professors at Yale Law) raised two girls, and her account of their formative years achieving amazing success in school and music performance proves both a model and a cautionary tale. Sophia, the eldest, was dutiful and diligent, leapfrogging over her peers in academics and as a Suzuki piano student; Lulu was also gifted, but defiant, who excelled at the violin but eventually balked at her mother's pushing. Chua's efforts "not to raise a soft, entitled child" will strike American readers as a little scary—removing her children from school for extra practice, public shaming and insults, equating Western parenting with failure—but the results, she claims somewhat glibly in this frank, unapologetic report card, "were hard to quarrel with.
Publishers Weekly

Most critics agreed that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an entertaining read—lively and humorous, written with the intent to shock. More controversial is Chua’s stereotyping of Chinese and Western cultures, not to mention her authoritarian parenting methods..
Bookmarks Magazine

She insists that Western children are no happier than Chinese ones, and that her daughters are the envy of neighbors and friends, because of their poise and musical, athletic, and academic accomplishments. Ironically, this may be read as a cautionary tale that asks just what price should be paid for achievement. —Colleen Mondor

Discussion Questions
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:

1. What is your overall reaction to Battle Hymn of the Mother Tiger?  Are you appalled or impressed, in agreement, disagreement...or something else?

2. What kind of mother is Amy Chua? Do you wish you'd had a mother like Chua? Or that you were a mother like Chua?

3. Is this a parenting manual? Are Western parents too soft on, or too permissive toward, their children? Does Amy Chua offer an alternative parenting model?

4. What is the most extreme example of Amy Chua's mothering? Which incidents stuck with you more than others—the piano practice threats? The birthday card rejection?

5. Success for Chua is important: how does she define success...and how do you define it? How important is success to you?

6. Consider whether Chua's children are such extraordinarily high achievers (musically and academically) because of their strict upbringing...or because of their innate abilities, i.e., genetics? (See her father's background in the Author Bio above.)

7. According to Chua, her parenting method is typical of Chinese families. Is their method—with its strict demands for high achievement—superior to that of Western parents? How would you describe the differences between parenting in the two cultures?

8. Chua wishes to reverse what she sees as "a remarkably common pattern" of decline in the Chinese immigrant family. According to Chua, first generation immigrants exercise strict discipline. Their children, the second generation, will "typically be high-achieving" but less strict with their children. And the third generation, "will feel that they have individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution"—an attitude that ultimately leads to to disobedience and generational decline. Is the decline Chua describes real? Have other immigrant populations experienced the same pattern?

9. Do you agree or disagree with Chua's criticisms of various aspects of Western culture—Facebook and junk food being two examples?

10. What does Chua think of the Western emphasis on self-esteem? Do you agree...or disagree with her assessment?

11. Chua dismisses the happy endings of Disney family movies by saying that that's "just Disney's way of appealing to all the people who never win prizes." What do you think—are the movies' soft-focus on parenting values pandering to low-achievers, to those who will never rise above average?

12. Part of Chua's rationale is that she understands what all Chinese parents understand: "that nothing is fun until you're good at it." Do you agree? Is playing the piano well as an adult, for instance, worth those toothmarks bitten into the piano as a child?

13. Chua says of herself, "the truth is I'm good at enjoying life." What do you make of her admission? Has she risked teaching her daughters the same attitude toward life?

14. What role does Chua's husband, Jed, play in all this? What should his role have been? What do you make of the fact that Chua is not unlike his own mother?

15. How did her sister's illness change Chua's views on life?

16. When Lulu had her outburst in Russia, did you root for her, or shrink back in horror?

17. How, eventually, is Chua "humbled" by her daughters—in what way do they prove wiser than their mother? Is, in fact, Chua truly humbled by Lulu? Does she have a genuine awakening?

18. What area some of the books humorous moments. Many reviewers talked about laughing out loud. What sections do you find especially funny, even hilarious?

19. Is success worth the time and effort it takes to maintain oversight and discipline...and, most especiallly, is it worth a child's unhappiness? Is that unhappiness only momentary in the larger scheme of life? In the end, is the payoff—a lifetime of accomplishment—worth the cost?

20. What do you predict for Chua's daughters? Do you think they will raise their children with the same strict standards their mother applied to them?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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