After all that venting about Amy Chua's crazy article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," I read her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Yes, I read it. I read it and I enjoyed it, laughing at the tongue-in-cheek-ness of some of the book and frowning at the bits that still struck me as... questionable.
The article that preceded the release of the book wasn't written by her - it was compiled by some unknown editor at the Wall Street Journal. The article was deliberately cut-and-pasted into the article that we're all familiar with and, honestly, detest. Chua didn't even choose the snarky, arrogant title of the article (Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior). However, it's very interesting to see that in the above interview, Chua states that "[She doesn't] think Chinese mothers are superior" when the caption on the cover of her memoir states "This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones." Just that sentence alone is enough to make one wonder - but wait, there's more! The cover caption continues with "But instead, it's about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old." Doesn't Chua now sound... less arrogant? It's much better! Chua accepts her defeat!
This book isn't a parenting manual - it's a memoir that just so happens to be written by a mother who is Chinese. She's definitely not as crazy dictator as the article made her sound (thank goodness) and she comes across as a strict, but not unloving mother. Chua definitely still sounds like an uppity, holier-than-thou person, but she still retains enough humility that perhaps she was a bit too extreme with her parenting, and she does express some regret in her past decisions. It's a journey.
There are still things, however, that I disagree with. Like when she says that playing drums will lead to drugs. Uh, no. There's a part in the book where Chua talks about her parents and their stories, and she describes her grandmother as a (you'll get a kick out of this) a Dragon Lady. When I first read that, I was a wee bit shocked. I'd always been under the impression that the term "Dragon Lady" was kinda derogatory, belonging in the same category as the "Lotus Flower" or "Fu Manchu" stereotype. But here's Chua, using it to describe her own grandmother! I may be reading a little too much into it, and Chua's grandma may have been born in the year of the Dragon, but who knows? All I know is that she's applying cultural stereotypes to her own grandmother, and showing that it's okay to embrace and essentially perpetuate these stereotypes! Then there's this idea of training and pushing her daughters to just get the A. Get the A and everything will be fine. Get a B and you'll work your butt off until you get that A. GET THE A! I'm a little biased, having gone to schools that value learning for the sake of learning as opposed to learning to get the grade. Maybe that's why the emphasis on "getting the A" was so infuriating and confusing to me. Either way, it's still bothersome - how on earth are her children going to learn from their mistakes if they never make mistakes?
She does, however, keep on categorizing herself as the "Chinese Mother" and makes it seem like there is only one kind of "Chinese Mother," which only furthers the stereotype surrounding an ethnicity-based parenting style. And, as we all know, stereotypes can be unfairly applied to anyone who seems to fit the bill - in this case, be Chinese. Only once in the book does she acknowledge that there are many different types of parenting, Chinese or otherwise. Unfortunately, she states it only once, in one smarmy paragraph in the very first chapter of the book. Chua highlights the diversity of Western parents and leaves them under the umbrella label of "Western parents" but categorizes the über-strict parenting style as Chinese, even going as far as to categorize an anecdotal white mother as a Chinese mother. So... basically... you are a Chinese mother (regardless of ethnic background) if you are as strict as Chua is. Not an Asian mother. A Chinese mother. To be a "Western" mother is to be somewhat free in your label, while it seems like there is one way and no other way to be a Chinese mother... Right? What's up with that?
Chua still says that in order to be Chinese (or a Chinese mother, for that matter), one must raise one's children exactly as she did. I still have a problem with this. It's like saying that I'm not Chinese or my mom isn't Chinese because I wasn't forced to play violin or piano or get A's in every single class except gym and drama. It's just a wee bit, you know, wrong.
In the end though, Chua has every right to raise her children as she wishes, and it's not really our place to make a pariah out of her for doing so. What's really annoying is the fact that she labels this the "Chinese" way. Of course, she hides behind this idea of "the immigrant thing." Well... Chua's not an immigrant. Her parents were. So... was adopting their strict parenting style necessary? Was it because she just didn't know any other way of raising children, and she couldn't be bothered to read up on some child psychology? It seems she did it because she was worried about future generations of children and she wanted filial piety. It's odd.
Fun Fact: Chua's book (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) is currently being sold in China under the title "US Mom."
Long story short: Amy Chua isn't as bad as the article made her out to be.