As many of my readers know, I’m still in high school, a junior to be precise. My passion is writing, so of course I decided to take AP Language as my primary English class for the coming year, naturally I had some summer reading to do. I was assigned two books by my teacher, one I hated- A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller– and one I loved- Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother. This post (as the title obviously entails) is about the latter.
The memoir opens with a short bulleted list of things that the author- Amy Chua- never let her daughters participate in. The list is:
- attend a sleepover
- have a playdate
- be in a school play
- complain about not being in a schoolplay
- watch a 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
Sounds pretty intense right? It is. Amy’s method of Chinese parenting is unrelenting and incredibly time consuming. Her two daughters Sophia and Lulu grow up playing the piano and the violin respectively. The two are enormously talented and committed thanks in whole to Amy’s tried and true parenting method. The very method she was raised on.
Sophia the oldest daughter, plays the piano. Not only is she a great piano player but she is also very obedient. She listens to her mother, never questions her instructions and upholds all the principles that make a Chinese child. Sophia never complains or gripes, from a young age it’s as if she already knew the way she would be raised. She is everything that her mother wanted and more.
Lulu the violinist, is another story. At age three Lulu is forced to play the piano same as her sister. After three years of raising the angelic child known as Sophia, Amy assumed Lulu would be the same story, but Lulu had other ideas. She refused to play the piano an de her mom through her out in the snow storm and told her she could come in if she practiced piano. Indomitable and stubborn Lulu refused to come in. In a rare moment of weakness, Amy gives in to Lulu and a complex relationship begins.
The first 80 pages serve to tell the reader the sacrifices made and the duties of being a Chinese parent. Sophia continues her piano with little to no complaints, quickly progressing in ability while switching between teachers and moving between cities. Lulu and Amy eventually decide to drop the piano and pursue the violin instead, Lulu finds her teacher and her groove as she begins to grow in ability, while still maintaining her stubborn personality. Amy and Lulu have a tense dynamic often shouting back and forth but always making up in the end.
In the second part of the memoir, the violin and piano are the real main characters. Practice and instruction dominate the girl’s lives in and out of school. Hours are spent on vacation tracking down pianos for Sophia, and time is carved out of each day for Lulu to practice her violin as well. The training evolves in to hours long commutes between instructors and schools, as Amy’s expectations grow higher. Sophia is as committed as ever, but Lulu is another story. By part three Lulu and Amy’s relationship has been decimated, the hours of hard work and their tense dynamic has all led up to a big episode while on vacation in Russia. Lulu stands up in the restaurant and yells hurtful things at her mother as all the emotions of the past mount up on to her. As may be expected, after this Lulu stops playing violin, and her mother backs off of her, but the damage has been done.
My favorite part of this book was the afterward, I found it very interesting what the rest of the world thought of this book. Many newspapers and daily talk shows dragged Amy through the mud for the things she said and did through the book. They criticized her for not seeing the error of her ways, when in fact I found Amy to be very self aware. She was aware of her daughters feelings at all times, her mistake was made when she failed to adapt to those feelings and emotions.
Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother is a very interesting book. I think we can all learn a lot from Amy and the way she raised her kids. I’ve never read about or seen a mother with so much confidence in her children’s ability. While this book didn’t prove that Chinese parenting is more effective, it does prove that every child can not be brought up in the same fashion. A lesson that I think every parents should learn.
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