Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
The Penguin Press: 226 pp., $25.95
I can't wait to see the mommy backlash on this one: If Ayelet Waldman is tarred and feathered for saying she loves her husband more than she does her children, imagine the Internet brouhaha when Yale Law professor Amy Chua tells the world that it's OK to put your 3-year-old out on the porch in the freezing cold and shut the door for a spell for playing the piano badly and to excoriate your 8-year-old for getting an A-minus. "Battle Hymn" it is — Chua believes that Chinese mothers are superior to Western ones, and she does not mind saying so. Western parents are too concerned with self-esteem. Chinese parents are correct in raising their children with a feeling of indebtedness to them and they know what's best for their kids — forcing them, for example, to play the instrument the parents choose (violin or piano) and never drums, which "leads to drugs." Chua provides a list of the things she will not let her children do: have play dates, attend sleepovers, be in school plays, "get any grade less than an A," watch TV or play computer games. "You must never compliment your children in public," "you must always take the side of the teacher or coach," "the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal," "that medal must be gold." Oh dear. It's a very entertaining read, even liberating for the oppressed helicopter mommy, but success at all costs is always disgusting and violent, and there is a great violence beneath this book — Chua's stories of the way her own father treated her and how his parents treated him are nothing but sad, even if she insists they earned respect. Chua, embarrassed as a Chinese American child growing up in the Midwest, has found her pride, her inner Tiger, and that is thrilling — but she justifies her parenting style by hiding behind her lineage, which is cowardly.