Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Author: Amy Chua
PUBLISHER: Penguin/Bloomsbury Publishing
PRICE: Rs. 866 Imported edition/ Rs. 350 Indian edition
Is traditional Chinese parenting superior to the more liberal Western parenting? This debatable question forms the subtext of ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’, already a best seller. The book, penned by Amy Chua, was the talking point at the Jaipur Literature Festival. A pre-publication excerpt in the Wall Street Journal (titled ‘Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior’) initiated a ferocious buzz, when the online version was read by more than a million people – and attracted more than 7,000 comments.
‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ negotiates parenting with a deftness of narrative skill that is distinctly amusing. Being a mother, I simply devoured the book. Written in an engaging style, the first chapter, aptly titled as ‘The Chinese Mother’, talks about the author’s Chinese origins. She says, “Once when I was young, and was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” – in our native Hokkien dialect. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem, or anything like that. I didn’t actually think I was worthless, or feel like a piece of garbage.”
The second and the third chapters are dedicated to her daughters, Sophia and Lulu. Chua claims that her stern parenting style—of criticising her childrens’ mistakes—is superior to traditional American parenting. She does not approve of Westerners allowing their kids to waste hours on Facebook and computer games. Imagine a mother rubbishing a card made lovingly by her little daughter, and saying, “I don’t want this. You could have put some thought and effort into making this birthday card.” Throwing the card back at her daughter, the mother says, “I deserve better than this. So I reject this.”
In part two of the book, there is a hilarious incident – when Ms. Chua’s daughter laughs uncontrollably at two Asian names, Parminder and Jasminder. That is when she reprimands her daughter, “Never judge people by their names”. She then goes on to reveal her own mothers name, ‘Go Ga Yong’.
If the author sounds a jarring note, it is when she narrates rather excessive stories of her never accepting a grade lower than an A; of compulsory piano and violin practice; of not allowing play dates, sleepovers, television, computer games – or even school plays. “If I had to do it all over again, I would raise my kids the same way,” declares Chua. “I’m a proud, strict mom.”
This alluring tome of ‘clash of cultures’ on parenting is worth debating. And for this reason alone, it must be read.