Tuesday, February 15, 2011


or more accurately when book three became book two.
and why it surprised me.

continuing along on my quest to read 52 books in 52 weeks, i found myself at the garage, waiting for my jeep to be serviced and without my book. my supposed number 2. i had left it home in my normal morning rush to get out the door, with lunches, diaper changes, money for lunches and on this particular day, a certain amount of attitude from my teenager, to get miss h to school, alex to montessori and a coffee in my hand.

so, there i sat. in a lone chair in the service department, which they brought down for me so i could have access to the wifi. i had my ipad, and in the absence of my "real" book, decided to download one for the first time. i have a family of e readers, the kids on the kindle and the husband on the ipad...but i had yet to venture into the eworld of reading.

i like paper. i like folding my pages. i like the heft of a boon while reading.
i was not convinced that reading anything other than tweets off my ipad was for me.

i also decided to download a book that i had been curious about for a few weeks, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, written by yale law professor...and mom...amy chua.

the outcry over this book was huge when it was released. chua's articles and interviews about her parenting methods and practices  raised the ire of many, many, many parents, both for her rash racial and cultural generalizations and her actual choices surrounding her daughters.

i am a pretty avid follower of the parenting world online ( where many of these discussions played
out ) and what struck me was the fact that many people were yelling about a book they had not read. in fact, they were really only reacting to the criticisms put forth by others.

so, i decided to read it.

and i liked it. a lot.

i actually could not stop reading it to the very end, on my little ipad, which is how it became the second book read, and not the third, which it should have been.

amy chua is a very funny woman. i caught myself gasping in recognition and laughing out loud several times in that garage service area.

what amy chua shares, that i recognized and bonded with, was the fact that she is a mother with very definite ideas of how she, as a parent, should behave.

and how her children should of course follow her lead.

which of course does not happen.

what is different about amy chua is that she does not sugar coat her successes or her failures. in fact, at times, i found myself rolling my eyes at her boasting. much the same way i have with many real life parents i know...and i am SURE that others have done with me. but at the same time, i sympathized with her frustrations ( with herself ) and felt a serious sisterhood with her when she realized how terribly wrongly she had misjudged her child's needs at different points of their childhood.

this is an honestly written book.
and a smart book.
it presses many buttons.
and raised endless questions for me...about how we parent, why we parent, what are our goals with our children.
should we set goals for our kids? are we failing them by not expecting strength and their best?
do they need us to coddle them or catapult them into finding their passions?

are we going to screw them up anyways? no matter how much we love them?

i won't venture to comment on all the cultural implications...chua does a good job sharing her experience with being a chinese child of traditional chinese parents adapting to a western world with very different traditions and expectations. i was taken aback by some of her observations. really taken aback.
but you know what? good.  you get comfy in your world and i actually took away quite a bit from her experiences and her take on the more western ways of doing things...which, in all honesty leave much to be desired. especially academically.

i was left curious about what was not shared in the book. chua's husband is not discussed much. and this is not because he did not play an obvious and positive part in the parenting of his children and in the partnering of his wife. theirs is a loving family, but one that somehow respected it's privacy in the sharing of their life. a weird contradiction. this is not a story devoid of love, quite the opposite. chua's motivation is clearly fueled from a position of love and belief in her daughters and in her traditions as a chinese woman.

this is really chua's story, her voice and her lessons.

and who knows how this family will turn out. in one of the links i include at the end of this post, the author notes that ending this story at the teenage stage with her daughters is really only telling a small part of the story.  a part one, really.

you hope that through all the challenges, successes, melt downs, loss and love that they experience, that they will forge some sort of peaceful existence. i mean, does not every parent hope that with their children? that you guide them, sometimes more gracefully than others, to a path that allows both of you to be content and feeling loved, perhaps not in that order.


and that? that i identify with.

***so, as i am not a good book critic and there are many, many good articles on this book out there, i am going to include a few, of differing opinions. they are as worth reading as the book.

washington post review

zhao learning blog

time.com article

the discussion that chua opens up is one that i find fascinating.
our kids are not on a great road.
i am sure that chua's approach is not the only way to parent...but her observations and reactions to what she fears for her girls is something that all responsible parents will relate to. or should.


margaret said...

I've been waiting to see what you had to say after seeing your tweets about the book and hearing the public outcry. now I'm intrigued.

Christine said...

Very interesting, I heard much of the hoopla on the radio, so I was intrigued as well... I may just have to pick that up (if I ever manage to finish pillars of the earth...)

angela auclair said...

pillars of the earth can swallow you for a long time;)

Anna aka.BeachMama said...

Once you start reading on the iPad, I really, truly find it hard to stop.So many books available to you in so many formats, and only one little gadget to carry around. I love it and have been known to read a book or three in a week :)