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Tiger Mother

Some comments about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua


All right folks, here’s the deal: I’m not over thinking this one at all.  But, since I did say that I would post some comments, and did ask you for yours, I have barfed out some “dinner party conversation” in regard to this book.  Meaning, if I was at a dinner party and conversation turned to this book, (which, curiously enough, it has not. Yet.) here are some comments I’d throw into the mix for discussion or debate or whatnot:


1)   This whole business came on my radar like a “blip” the day that the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) released the article.  I *gasp* will admit that I didn’t really pay close attention. Then it came on the radar again with a question from my sister, then I saw the Time magazine article (at news stands now!) and then I saw the New York Times (NYT) coverage.  And then I got curious.

2)   My out the gate comment, with my sister as my witness, was “I bet they are taking a lot of those sound-bites out of context.” And they did.  Of course they did though!  Those sound bites got people to buy the book!!!! Even folks who were “disgusted!” wanted to read what it was all about.  Cha-ching! $25.00 please. (but that’s another commentary)

3)   “Out of context” example:  the final chapter, when she was “supposedly” humbled by a 13 year old, contains her cathartic ah-ha moment. (In as much as Chua’s self-represented self can have an “ah-ha” moment) None of this was captured in a sound bite.  It seems that we are focused on the little donkey business, standing in the cold and burning stuffed animals….

4)   And now a little bit about hypocrisy: tell me parents in the West have not screamed bloody murder at their children when no one was watching and threatened and bribed in some extreme unreasonable fashion when the children didn’t do what they (the adult) wanted?  For cryin’ out loud, they do it in Target when people ARE watching!  Who’s to know what goes on behind closed doors.  And who are we to throw stones? I’m just saying…

5)   I have not yet seen her give any interviews so I have no take on her body language, intonation, etc.  I have not seen her talk about her own work.  I am limited to the print I have read in the WSJ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

and the NYT http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/fashion/16Cultural.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

the Time magazine articles, and then of course, I read it myself the other day.

6)   I agree with her daughter’s comment towards the end that her mother (Chua) over generalized “Western” and “Chinese” parenting. But she is pretty black and white in her thinking through the whole book, so that over-generalization would not really be out of character.

7)   I understand now that Chua is “backpedaling” and I think that bothers me.  If she is somehow taken-back and overwhelmed by the response and reaction that this book is getting she is clearly either surprisingly naïve or has a lousy literary agent.  How you could not know that you would be critiqued up one side and down the other after putting your name on this is beyond me.

8)   If it was supposed to be taken with a grain of salt, that should have been stated a bit clearer.  She came across strong in her (albeit controversial) values; I didn’t get “tongue in cheek” at all. I got the image of a strong, potentially over-committed, black-and-white thinker who wanted the best for her daughters and who went about providing that in the way she knew best.  Through the story she learned though that the way she raised #1 daughter was not going to work for #2 daughter.  She changed her mind.  And in telling her story it is my belief that she took full use of the poetic license we generally grant to writers of such extreme, passion-filled, emotionally charged stories.

9)   Which brings up another point, it’s her story.  As much as I didn’t “like” some of the anecdotes she wrote about and as much as I think I would not be like that (never say never) the truth of the matter is that I don’t “like” (like that even matters) some of what Western parents or classrooms or businesses or… or… or… do either.  I still value her willingness to put her name on her story.  So at the risk of sounding all neutral and wishy-washy I don’t have a strong position either way on this one – mostly because it is a story! And, it’s a story that allows SOME voyeuristic readers to fill themselves up with pride by saying, “See what a good parent I am, I don’t do any of that!”

10)   Ok, so a non-neutral comment:  I agree with many of her critiques of what she over-generalizes as “Western” parenting.  I agree that we place too much emphasis on making sure kids are always happy.  I agree we hover.  I agree that we have forgotten that kids are strong resilient creatures.  I am not sure I agree with the tactics she took to show her kids that she did believe in them, but I also think that readers of the book are naïve if they think that all of what is in the book actually happened!  It is a memoir folks. Not a how-to parenting guide.


© Lisa Murphy

Ooey Gooey, Inc.

February 1, 2011



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