If ever there was a book that could ignite a conversation about Western parenting styles compared to Chinese parenting styles, Amy Chua’s 2011 memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother does just that.
The book was not intended to be a parenting manual, but rather a tongue in cheek, humorous account of the manner in which she raised her two daughters, Sophia and Lulu.
The library book club recently met to discuss what they thought about the book and offer their opinions.
It was a lively, thought provoking conversation with plenty of laughs, but also a healthy amount of incredulity.
We wondered what it would be like to be raised by a mother that doesn’t allow sleepovers, won’t accept any grade less than an A on a report card and insisted on violin and piano practice for hours a day, even on vacation.
It seemed like the author took the fun out of childhood experiences we should all enjoy.
Yes, Amy Chua was a strict taskmaster as a mother, but reading her memoir shows she did this out of sheer devotion to her children, with personal sacrifice to herself as well.
She made the decision to instill strong work habits and skills that would arm them with confidence as they grew older, which it seems to have done.
I found the book quite funny and laughed out loud at some of the situations she found herself in, especially with her youngest daughter Lulu.
She was a force to be reckoned with, even at a very young age.
Her temper tantrums described in the book are epic.
Sophia on the other hand, was mild mannered and considered a child prodigy on the piano, playing at Carnegie Hall when she was only 14.
Throughout the book, Chua compares the cultural stereotypes between Western and Chinese parents.
Many things she said could be taken as an offense, if you forget she really was not being serious.
Chua herself says her book is based on true events, but filled with exaggeration.
Like how her children were never allowed to play computer games or watch T.V.
Near the end of the book, Chua reflects on her parenting and states,
“Choice….I wonder if that’s what it all comes down to, Westerners believe in choice, the Chinese don’t.”
As the book club wrapped up the discussion of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, we reflected on the choices we have made in our own lives and if there was anything we gave up as a child that we wished we had been pushed to do.
Would we be better at those things now if we had been raised by Tiger Mothers?
Pick up a copy of the book from the library and see what you think.
The library book club meets monthly from September to May.
Join us Saturday, May 23 for the last book club meeting of the spring session to discuss The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King.
Caroline McKay is an assistant community librarian at the Summerland Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.