Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother requires a certain flexibility of thought. The premise involves contrasting “American parents” and “Chinese parents” using experiences from Chua’s life bringing up her two daughters. But the narrative opens a hornet’s nest of questions: What is the purpose of childhood? Can what is deemed cruel in one culture be kind in another? If you had to choose between enjoying your life and doing something special with your life, is one choice more moral than the other? What if the choice was not for your own life but for your child’s?
If Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was an easy book for you to read and process, you probably missed most of the nuance. The characters’ lives are filled with mindless simplification: sweeping generalizations, unwarranted dramatics, blind ambition, and false dichotomies. Chua does not appear to be a very reflective subtle person until you realize that in writing the book she is being very subtle and reflective about her lack of subtlety. Then you realize that your own response is not a simple response to a narrative but also a knee-jerk reaction to your own life as both a parent and a child.
Read it with your fiance, with your teenaged child, with your mother after you are grown and out on your own. Then talk. It asks for reflection and conversation, not just a gut response (though you will probably have one of those, too).
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