Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
You knew I was going to read this. You probably saw the article that triggered the firestorm that alerted me to the existence of the book. If not, it's here.
I'm still digesting, and mostly my thoughts are about how we're raising our son - Chua's experience is the exact opposite of the experiences that I've been seeking out. She is the opposite of unschooling, the opposite of being the boat that rides the waves, the opposite of finding a moment and seeing the beauty in the ordinary. She is driven, she is stubborn, she is (this is the universal part) parenting her children in the manner in which she was parented.
I do not agree with all of her approaches (the worst of which - until the meltdown that humbles her* - are in the WSJ article) but I can't completely fault her. Her prose is engaging, her motivation is truly love for her daughters, and were I to sit next to her at a party I think I would enjoy her company.
She says, over and over, that there is tongue-in-cheek humor...but it's insider humor. Unless you are the child of an immigrant it might sail past you and leave a bad taste in your mouth. Statements that come across as judgmental would likely be hilarious to Westerners had they been written by Matt Groenig (or Trey Parker or Matt Stone) and delivered by Homer Simpson (or one of the four South Park kids.) Humor is cultural, and I suspect that is why this book has struck such a nerve.
Does she have some truly heinous parenting moments? Yes. But who doesn't? She also has moments of clarity and brilliance where everything seems to come together, and at the end...she learns and grows, which is really all anyone can do.
As Calvin's dad said: You do the best you can with the knowledge you have. (Yes, he said it first, Not Oprah. When I run across the strip, I'll scan it and prove it.)
The book has made me think...really think and really scrutinize my plans and how they will impact my child as he grows. Whether I agree with her or not, that is the best thing a book can do for you. As you read, you look around and think "is this really the best life I can lead? Are my intentions pure?" Few authors trigger those thoughts (I am lucky to have reviewed some of them here) and Chua is among them.
*the subtitle: "The is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. The was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising their kids than Western ones. But instead, it's about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting tastes of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old."
Here she is, in her own words, on PBS: