The first time I saw Amy Chua interviewed on The Colbert Report, I vowed not to read her book. She talked about how she condoned calling her daughters names like “garbage” and how she tore up their handmade birthday cards. I thought, how could I relate to her?
But when my dear friend and fellow book-club member chose it as this month’s selection, I felt compelled to pick up a copy (discounted, of course, at B&N) and join in. This particular friend happens to pick the most interesting selections to discuss and she is meticulous about leading the discussion (she uses post-it notes like crazy). Also, with all the controversy about the book on social media over the last few months, who isn’t a little bit curious about what’s inside the pages of this book, which is apparently selling like hotcakes?
I don’t have the best behaved children, I readily admit it. When I ask them to practice piano, they stall. They tell me they’re busy, they’ll get to it later. And they don’t. I haven’t forced the practicing….yet. Mainly because I want them to continue to love it, and I want them to play piano for years to come. That’s my tactic, maybe it’s wrong, but I’m no Tiger Mother. Chua got her two daughters to practice their instruments, piano and violin for four hours a day. How did she get them to do that, you may ask? By belittling them. By forcing them. By giving them no other option. One plays Carnegie Hall. The other auditions for Julliard at a young age. Together, they play a special concert in Budapest. She wants them to go all the way to the moon.
As a result, one of her daughters rebels at age 13. She’s had enough. Chua, an over-achiever, who insists that Chinese parenting skills are far superior to what she considers Western laziness and permissiveness, condones her own actions and words used throughout the book. She locks her daughters out in the cold when they refuse to play piano, denies them of play dates and sleepovers, forces them to practice their music on weekends and vacations, doesn’t accept grades less than an A, doesn’t allow television or video games. She calls them names when they go against her wishes.
Sure, I’d like better behavior from my kids, but not this way. It’s important, while you’re reading this book, to note that this is not a parenting guide. It’s a memoir. Reading this book made me realize that I’m not a great mother. But I am teaching my kids compassion, to live life to the fullest, to follow their dreams. Chua wants her daughters to take one road. For her, there is only one road. When her younger daughter, Lulu, comes forward and tells her she no longer wants to practice four hours a day, that she wants to live differently, taking tennis, being normal, Chua can not handle it. In real life, Chua can think she’s being tongue and cheek about her whole experience and that people are taking this book far too seriously as much as she wants to. But I’ll go to my grave questioning her parenting skills. Skills that her own husband and parents questioned throughout the book.
By the way, I am not writing about this book to promote sales. If I were you, I’d borrow this book from a friend, wait until the library has a copy. There is no need to contribute to Chua’s growing wealth and profit from this book.
So, going back to my book club who gathered tonight to discuss the book,I want to share their opinions and thoughts. It’s important to note that my book club consists of mostly lawyers, much like Chua. Everyone is opinionated, and we all have kids. We discussed why this book is having such a moment, and everyone believes that it’s due to the tenuous state of U.S. education and the ascent of China. We’re having a Chinese moment, so this book arrived at the right time.
Here are some random thoughts from the group. There was primarily a consensus from people who didn’t care for the book, but for whom the book made them think about their own parenting skills and methods.
“Why would a Professor of Law expose herself like this?”
“I thought she was joking, I kept waiting for her to say ‘Ha!’ after every page. She’s a snob and I didn’t care for her loose comparison of Chinese culture to the Western World.”
“I think her (Chua’s) husband will write his own book, his side of the story. We didn’t get much of that. Why did he side with her the whole time?”
“How could their relationship (Chua and her husband) work with such a different type of upbringing?”
“Even at the end of the book, after all is said and done and her daughter flips out, Chua was faux humbled.”
“She’s over-invested. She’s looking out for her best interests, not her daughters. She has zero powers of reflection and is busy turning their experiences into their own.”
“She just wanted to win…at her children’s expense.”
On the flip side:
“It’s an insight into the Chinese mind.”
“As a memoir, she seemed to get the joke of her life. Her attitudes about permissive Western society makes sense, but I, myself, am too lazy to be a tiger mom.”
“The book makes me desperately afraid as a mom. Am I allowing my kids to grow up too soft?”
“It made me think of how I am raising my own child and reassess my own skills.””It made me think of how I am raising my own child and reassess my own skills.”
“The book is truthful in teaching your kids about hard work.”
One member handed the book to her 12-year-old son and told him to read it. He read it in two days and came back to her and immediately said, “She’s (Chua) crazy.” He also stated that her children know more now if they didn’t already. About Chua’s daughter playing Carnegie Hall: “It would feel good to play Carnegie Hall, sure. But it was one night!” He also insisted on knowing where was the baby’s father? Everyone agrees that he’s writing a Tiger Dad book with his own perspective.
Another member’s husband is reading the book as a “how to” with his own children.
Lastly, one member could not even pick up the book. She saw Chua in interviews and decided not to read it.
Disclosure: This post is based on my own personal experiences. No compensation was provided by anyone and all opinions are my own.