Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tiger Mother

Someone in my book club suggested reading the famously controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Since I love to read I figured that I would get it from the library in case it got picked as a book club read. Since it is a newer book, I expected to be 150th on the list, imagine my surprise to find that no one wants to read this book at my public library, I got it in 1 day! It might have something to do with the fact that over 50% of the town I live in is Chinese. Regardless, I got it today and dug right into it.

I flipped open to the first page and read the Tiger Mother's check list of things their kids could never do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a play date
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin

I have to stop now and tell you that my mother is not Chinese, Korean or Japanese, she is good old Heinz 57 American mix that I like to call "White". She had a list similar to this list but not limited to these items. I remember begging to have a sleepover and not being allowed to until I was 12 and I was graciously allowed to sleep over at my 2nd cousin Wendy's house (Wendy if you are reading this, you now know why I reacted so strangely to spending the night at your house). I can't remember the details exactly but it seems to me that I only met Wendy about 20 or 30 minutes before I was told I could sleep over at her house. This most likely explains why I was so uncomfortable around her and why I was shocked and horrified when I found out she had two older brothers who would tease us and pick on us. And having never heard popular music and not being allowed to dance it will also explain why I didn't know what to do when I heard my first Billy Joel record and my cousin started to gyrate very rhythmically to the songs. I always wondered if Wendy wondered why her older and practically-a-stranger, fundamentally conservative and religious-in-a-vegetarian-no-TV-watching kind of way, violin and piano playing cousin was suddenly spending the night at her house. Regardless, she was very kind and polite and played with me and screamed at her brothers and told me I could scream at them too and asked her Mom to make Macaroni and Cheese out of the box for me because I wasn't allowed to have that at home. And we went swimming and I wasn't called fat by anyone in her family when they saw me in a bathing suit because Wendy and I looked a lot alike, we were both round and brown skinned. And I got to watch TV and go to sleep really late. And I developed massive crushes on not just one but both brothers (2nd cousins people!), And I ate too much sugar, I think. In short, I had the time of my life on my first sleepover. It would be at least 4 years before I was allowed to have another.

Let me also say that after reading the first two chapters of this obnoxious and self congratulatory book I had to stop. I was drinking ice coffee at the time and I felt like I had acid refux which now I realize was just a physical reaction to Amy Chua's writing. At this point I flipped to the back of the book and read the fly and this is what it says:

"Amy Chua is the John M. Duff Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Her first book, World on Fire: How exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, a New York Times bestseller, was selected by both The Economist and the UK's Guardian as one of the best books of 2003. Her second book, Day of Empire: How Hyper-powers Rise to Global Dominance--and Why They Fall, was a critically acclaimed Foreign Affairs bestseller. She lives with her husbands, two daughters, two Samoyed's and her 4 brains in a jar in New Haven, Connecticut."

Ok, I added that part about the 4 brains, but if you read her bio, you get a picture of who Amy Chua is and why she felt compelled to write about how great her parenting skills are and why she feels like she is the best Chinese American Mother of the century. I just need to warn those of you that are going to read this book about the 3rd chapter (and the last one I will read) that tells of a stand off with her 3 year old during the below zero winter months in Connecticut and how the 3 year old was outside, shivering and chattering in a light sweater while Amy was inside and the 3 year old was winning.

She said that she had to change tactics immediately and that she couldn't win this one. She said she was worried she would be locked up by the authorities for abuse. She said she started begging and bribing and really working to get her 3 year old back in the house. The line that clenched it for me as far as being the shortest book I've ever read was the last sentence of this chapter:

"But Lulu (the 3 year old) had underestimated me too. I was just rearming. The battle lines were drawn, and she didn't even know it." Oy vey!

With all due respect to Amy Chua, the book should really be called "I'm A Law Professor And I Write Smart Books With My Fantastic Education And I Decided To Write About Parenting And I'm Sorry To All The People Who Used Their Hard Earned Money To Buy My Book So Please Go And Check It Out From The Public Library Because There Is No Waiting Time If You Want To Borrow It".


Christine said...

ROTFL! Joy, I had a similar reaction to her book, although I did make it through it. I kept reading parts and laughing with Zack about them - it was a bonding moment for us! I guess it's obvious when someone feels so self-conscious about their parenting decisions that they need to write a book about it to feel justified.

hscopazzi said...

So, don't read it??? Its not worth it? Good to know!! And, btw.. 21 followers!! Yeah, baby!!