How Do You Write Unflattering Truths About Your Family or Yourself?

Author Amy Chua’s third book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, is a chatty, witty, intimate memoir of how she raised two daughters in hyper-severe Chinese style, despite the surrounding children of permissive American parents.

Chua’s father, a leading theorist of advanced mathematics, gave her a model for perfectionism. In eighth grade, she placed second in a history contest. Someone else was named best all-around student. She invited her family to the ceremony.

“Afterward,” she writes, “my father said to me: ‘Never, never, disgrace me like that again.'”

She pursued that model. Though generous with family fun and affection, she denied her daughters, Sophia and Louisa (Lulu), experiences that are important to many young Americans: no TV, no pets, no computer games, no sleepovers, no play dates, no grades under A, no parts in school plays, no complaints about not having parts in school plays, no choice of extracurricular activities, nothing less than top places in any school class except gym and drama, no musical instruments except piano or violin.

Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do:

* have a playdate

* be in a school play

* complain about not being in a school play

* 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

The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin.

Of course no one is perfect, including Chua herself. Witness this scene:

According to Sophia, here are three things I actually said to her at the piano as I supervised her practicing:

1. Oh my God, you’re just getting worse and worse.

2. I’m going to count to three, then I want musicality.

3. If the next time’s not PERFECT, I’m going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them.

But Chua demands as much of herself as she does of her daughters. And in her sacrifices-the exacting attention spent studying her daughters’ performances, the office hours lost shuttling the girls to lessons-the depth of her love for her children becomes clear. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an eye-opening exploration of the differences in Eastern and Western parenting—and the lessons parents and children everywhere teach one another.

Read more about her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger MotherHERE.

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4 thoughts on “How Do You Write Unflattering Truths About Your Family or Yourself?

  1. kloppenmum says:

    Personally, I would rather our children were defined by who they are rather than what they do. We aim to raise mature children first, and they are turning out to be self-motivated and self-assured. I do wonder what would happen to Chua’s children should they develop arthritis or not manage in a relationship…what then?

  2. this sounds like abuse to me, not great writing. Because she can write well, it becomes a justification. the question isn’t if the book is great, but if the children are helping the world now. I don’t get taking away the arts (drama) or creativity (play time) to pursue test scores.

  3. Chua claims that American mothers are too worried about hurting their kids’ feelings. They need to be tough and honest and tell their kids when they’re not good enough.
    She writes about the birthday when her daughters gave her quickly made handmade cards and she ripped them up, demanding that they do a better job.
    Many people have sent the author nasty eMails and even death threats… Read more about this HERE

  4. “The book is a memoir – it’s supposed to be funny and a self-parody, but because of an excerpt that came out, under the title ‘Why Chinese mothers are superior’ – which I did not ever see and totally do not believe – a lot of people didn’t understand that the book is not a parenting guide,” Chua said.

    Read more—via the link below—on how Chua defends the actual book from the stereotyping reactions from those who haven’t read the book (not the last third, anyway).

    “Tiger Mother” Amy Chua defends parenting memoir

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