Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• 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 No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

These are a few of the things Amy Chua didn't let her kids do. The rules are from Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua - another controversial mothering book. Just from reading the snippets, it seems to present an idea of a generic "strict immigrant" approach to parenting. It also ties in to ideas of what it is to be Chinese in the Chinese diaspora and a smash and grab title that wraps two nationalist cliches in one.Chua was born in the Philippines and moved to the US when she was 2 months old

The book is also an example of incredibly astute marketing where an extreme is presented as the way forward with no alternative permitted - Sarah Palin with a law degree. And rather than being Chinese, it is Anglophone and  North American, slick soundbite-marketing which does rather more than it sells itself on. Chua is having it both ways, which is something that artists and  photographers do almost without exception - some lessons for us all there..

The following is an extract from the Guardian interview.She relents eventually and the kids do other stuff as well but let's pretend she's as horrible as she sounds for a minute, and that all parents of East Asian background are like this.

Amy Chua was in a restaurant, celebrating her birthday with her husband and daughters, Sophia, seven, and Lulu, four. "Lulu handed me her 'surprise', which turned out to be a card," writes Chua in her explosive new memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. "More accurately, it was a piece of paper folded crookedly in half, with a big happy face on the front. Inside, 'Happy Birthday, Mummy! Love, Lulu' was scrawled in crayon above another happy face. I gave the card back to Lulu. 'I don't want this,' I said. 'I want a better one – one that you've put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and Sophia, and this one can't go in there.' I grabbed the card again and flipped it over. I pulled out a pen and scrawled 'Happy Birthday Lulu Whoopee!' I added a big sour face. … 'I reject this.'"

Listen to Chua on Radio 4 here.

Read the Guardian article  here

Read the New York Times article here.

WSJ extract here and blog responses 


Kurt Shoens said...

When I first read the excerpt of her book on the Wall Street Journal site, I thought it was a brilliant parody of the stereotypes held about Asian immigrant parents.

I was so disappointed to see that she wrote the book straight.

As you say, the marketing is brilliant. People take parenting so personally, even if they don't have children of their own!

I'd sooner disagree with a friend about politics or religion than about how they raise their kids. Since this book says everyone's doing it wrong, it has a marketing cyclone built into it.

tim atherton said...


Last week, Penguin Press published Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother, which criticizes "Western" parenting and advocates an "Asian" approach that includes forbidding playdates and being highly critical of children in order to make them more successful. Here are some other tips from the book:

Take your children to Chuck E. Cheese's and let them play any game they choose, then make them watch as you burn their tickets

Ice cream is a great motivator for kids; promise them that if they do everything you ask, they can have some when they turn 18

Inform your child that televisions receive all of their power from flawless renditions of Brahms' Violin Concerto in D

Only let your children have a pet dog if they can tame the most rabid dog at the pound

Should your child express interest in spending more time with his or her friends, simply pack up and move several hundred miles away

To ensure academic excellence, inform your children that there is a mark higher than an A-plus and then shame them for failing to attain it

Replace their frail little limbs with less fragile prosthetics

Remember, you may have to put up with one or two suicides before you finally craft that perfect child you've always wanted

colin pantall said...

Thanks Kurt - ha, ha, but you might be right if you think it's not straight. The marketing is everything and so...

Tim - there's a mark higher than A plus. Sounds like academic Spinal Tap. In the UK an A used to be the highest mark,now there's A Star.

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