Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

3.7 613
by Amy Chua

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After igniting a firestorm of debate across the nation, Amy Chua's daring, conversation-changing memoir is now in paperback.

At once provocative and laugh-out-loud funny, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother set off a global parenting debate with its story of one mother's journey in strict parenting. Amy Chua argues that Western parenting tries to

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After igniting a firestorm of debate across the nation, Amy Chua's daring, conversation-changing memoir is now in paperback.

At once provocative and laugh-out-loud funny, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother set off a global parenting debate with its story of one mother's journey in strict parenting. Amy Chua argues that Western parenting tries to respect and nurture children's individuality, while Chinese parents typically believe that arming children with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence prepares them best for the future. Achingly honest and profoundly challenging, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua's iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, the Chinese way-and the remarkable, sometimes heartbreaking results her choice inspires.

Editorial Reviews

At the onset, I should admit that I'm not part of any of this book's most likely audiences: I'm not Chinese, or Asian-American, or a book club member; or a woman or even a parent. All that said, I still found this memoir irresistible. First of all (and I'm surprised that this not mentioned more prominently in reviews), Amy Chau is a fine writer. Her memoir isn't a just wiser-than-thou catechism on child-rearing, although she certainly doesn't conceal or sugarcoat her beliefs about raising offspring properly. She is so frank about her micro-management of her daughters' educations and their responses that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother actually invites all the controversy that has been raging ever since it first hit bookshelves. All of us have ideas or at least impulses about parenting and somehow, wonderfully, this engaging book brought them to a boil. —R.J. Wilson, Bookseller, #1002, New York NY

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.44(w) x 11.34(h) x 0.93(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. It's also about Mozart and Mendelssohn, the piano and the violin, and how we made it to Carnegie Hall.

This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones.

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.

Part One

The Tiger, the living symbol of strength and power, generally inspires fear and respect.

The Chinese Mother

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

  • 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 #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin.

I'm using the term "Chinese mother" loosely. I recently met a super-successful white guy from South Dakota (you've seen him on television), and after comparing notes we decided that his working-class father had definitely been a Chinese mother. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish, and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise.

I'm also using the term "Western parents" loosely. Western parents come in all varieties. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that Westerners are far more diverse in their parenting styles than the Chinese. Some Western parents are strict; others are lax. There are same-sex parents, Orthodox Jewish parents, single parents, ex-hippie parents, investment banker parents, and military parents. None of these "Western" parents necessarily see eye to eye, so when I use the term "Western parents," of course I'm not referring to all Western parents—just as "Chinese mother" doesn't refer to all Chinese mothers.

All the same, even when Western parents think they're being strict, they usually don't come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments thirty minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that "stressing academic success is not good for children" or that "parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun." By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be "the best" students, that "academic achievement reflects successful parenting," and that if children did not excel at school then there was "a problem" and parents "were not doing their job." Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately ten times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

This brings me to my final point. Some might think that the American sports parent is an analog to the Chinese mother. This is so wrong. Unlike your typical Western over-scheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold.

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What People are saying about this

Tom Brokaw
"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the book we've all been waiting for—a candid, provocative, poignant and vicarious journey through the Chinese-American family culture. It will leave you breathless with its bluntness and emotion. Amy Chua is a Tiger Mother, a greatly gifted law professor and, ultimately, a honest, loving woman with a lot to say."
—Tom Brokaw
From the Publisher
"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the book we've all been waiting for - a candid, provocative, poignant and vicarious journey through the Chinese- American family culture. It will leave you breathless with its bluntness and emotion. Amy Chua is a Tiger Mother, a greatly gifted law professor and, ultimately, an honest, loving woman with a lot to say."
-Tom Brokaw

"This is one outrageous book, partly thanks to Amy Chua's writing style - Chua is pugnacious and blunt, with an unerring nose for the absurd ...The cultural divide Chua so brilliantly captures is one we stand to witness more and more in our globalized age, after all; and what with Asia and Asian achievement looming ever larger in the American imagination, the issues inherent in Battle Hymn are as important as they are entertaining... I was riveted by this book"
-Gish Jen, The Boston Globe

"Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother did more than speak to me. It screamed, shouted and lectured me. It made me simultaneously laugh with empathy and cringe with embarrassment and exasperation... Charming... Self-effacing... Guffaw-inducing"
-Terry Hong, San Francisco Chronicle

"Readers will alternately gasp at and empathize with Chua's struggles and aspirations, all the while enjoying her writing, which, like her kid-rearing philosophy, is brisk, lively and no-holds-barred. This memoir raises intriguing, sometimes uncomfortable questions about love, pride, ambition, achievement and self-worth that will resonate among success-obsessed parents... Engagingly and provocatively chronicled. Readers of all stripes will respond to [Battle Hymn of the] Tiger Mother.
-Elizabeth Chang, The Washington Post

"[Chua's] writing is smart and lively"
-Entertainment Weekly

"Chua's mindset and methods-bolstered by faith in Chinese family tradition-pose a useful challenge for an era haunted by a helicoptering ethos as hard to shake as it is to like. Here is an alternative to the queasy hypocrisy of typical hyperparents, buffeted by shifting expertise that leaves them anxious about overpressuring even as they push. Chua breaks through all that. She is a crusader invigorated by practicing what she preaches: the arduous work she believes necessary to do anything well, child-rearing included... But precisely because Chua slaves away as hard as her girls do, one thing her program is not is guilt-inducing. In the end, her ordeal with Lulu teaches Chua humility and proves her daughter's very healthy autonomy-and inspires next to no regrets."

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Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 613 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love love love this book! I know it's been controversial, but those that hate this book are simply threatened by it. As a woman raised by the quintessential "chinese" mother (although she was polish, and had never even been to china), I completely agree with Chua's perspective on child-raising. As she so correctly notes, while the "chinese-mother" school of child raising can mean your child and you have storied pitched battles throughout their childhood, if done correctly (with the deep love and humor both Chua and my own mother have with regard to their children), it results in accomplished, satisfied, and stable adults who genuinely love and respect their parents for the incredible effort and love put into raising them. My own anecdoctal evidence supports this conclusion: I find that I have a much healthier, closer and more enjoyable relationship with my mother, as well as to myself, than many of my friends and acquaintances raised by the traditional "american" model of permissive parents afraid to say "no" for fear of damaging their allegedly delicate self-worth. The delightful thing about Chua's book, however, is that it is not simply a dry manifesto about the virtues of raising children the "Tiger" way. Rather, she intervenes her delightfully personal, honest story with comments showing her ability to both laugh at herself and learn from her mistakes (which, as any parent knows, are unavoidable in some degree!). Even for those of you that won't gasp with recognition at some of Chua's stories, it is a delightful book which is absolutely worth reading with an open mind, especially if you have children or plan to have children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For readers, some people on here aren't very observant. This is a MEMOIR, not a self-help book on how to raise children. I knew that it was a memoir before I read it, but I also read her interview in Oprah magazine. She doesn't want to insult Western cultures and our way of child rearing, but it is very interesting to see her side, how she was raised, and how she raised her children. Once again, it's a MEMOIR, and take it as that and leave it. Not everyone agrees how to raise their child, and parents dislike unsolicted advice on how to raise children (especially me, a mother of twins) because each child is different, and each experience is different (not everyone knows how to raise multiples). So, just because you are a 'child development' specialist or psychologist, doesn't mean you're an expert. I personally was very interested in the differences between each culture (in the Chinese culture, not everyone agrees with the author either) and the effects the parents had on their children. Take it or leave it, no one is telling you how to raise your child. I mostly disagreed with it, but I knew it was just a book, and it was nice when she learned a big lesson. Calm down.
ProudParent More than 1 year ago
It's about time someone spoke the truth about child rearing. My wife (Asian) and I (American) have followed a similar regime with our son, though somewhat less strict. He has turned out to be about as perfect as any parent could want. Everyone who meets him is impressed and asks us how we did it: now I have a guide to refer them to. Hopefully we can now send all the weak minded child psychologists, social workers, and spineless education administrators to the dust bin of history. Anyone can raise their child to be a star; Amy Chua shows the way.
ReviewerofBooks More than 1 year ago
This book reads like a very rough diary of someone who will probably need to write journals & talk to therapists for a few years before realizing the many disturbing behavioral patterns she engages in and why. It is not very cohesive and not well structured. When she writes about the pages and pages of tedious notes she writes to her daughter about various measures of music she is to practice and how precisely to do so, she seems very disturbed. However, when people tell her so again and again, including her Chinese mother who moved from China to the Philippines when she was 2 saying she shouldn't be so intrusive with her daughter, she simply says she does so because she is Chinese. It seems illogical. It reminds me of a description of a narcissist. It is a very odd book. Narcissism is not quintessential to Chinese culture. My Chinese friend & I (we are both Chinese) independently had very similar responses to this book though she articulated things I noticed & found perturbing & I pointed out others. It is very misleading the way the author refers to everything she does as Chinese even when people in the book point out that this explanation does not make sense, yet she persists in doing so. It is also very misleading regarding valuable techniques in working with children. The author comes across as knowing very little of value with regard to teaching music. Research, including scientific research, as well as books on various ways, pluses and minuses, and effective ways of fostering students' talent and teaching children are out there, but for some reason the author believes that she knows better. Also, the back cover says it is about "HOW TO" become a Tiger Mother, referring to a Chinese mom so I am confused why the author & reviewers repeatedly pronounce there is no how to dimension to this book. The opening also reads very much like a how to--in language even more on the nose of how you'd perceive a cliche 'how to' to read than a well written how to. Overall, an odd book that made me feel sympathy for the author & her daughters & wonder why this didn't stay a very rough, private diary & if she will ever be open to listening to the many people who tell her, including in the book, that she contradicts herself & lacks enough self-awareness to participate in more healthy, positive behavioral patterns & to truly allow her children to grow & to grow herself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chua handled this controversial material very well. She admitted that although she felt raising kids the Chinese way would have huge benefits, she was realizing the drawbacks. I found it fascinating as well as challenging to my way of parenting. I am definitely a Western mother. I happen to have a child who plays violin. She hates to practice and I find myself wanting to give up constantly. I think taking a bit of the Chinese way and letting it influence mine is not a bad thing. Um...but no yelling. Gives me a headache.
A_Rose-Rober More than 1 year ago
I originally did not intend to read this book, feeling it was not worth the effort but after reading some reviews and Amy Chua's appearance on the Colbert Report I was compelled to read it. It was unreasonably short and discombobulated, the chapters and even the paragraphs jumping from one moment to another two, three, even ten years ahead or behind, but it was still a decent read that I implore parents of all walks to read. While you may be sitting there, eyebrows raised and asking yourself "how can a mother do that?" there are many things that can be taken away from this book. Values that all people should instill in their children, ideals that should be taken with a grain of salt, and several "how to make your child resent you" moments that you should be careful to avoid. To start, Amy Chua begins that she originally had intended this book to show how "Chinese" parenting is somehow superior, but was eventually "humbled" by her rebellious thirteen year old Louisa, whom was affectionately referred to as Lulu, in a restaurant in Russia after an argument over caviar. After Chua called her daughter a "barbarian", "savage", and some other harsh words, Lulu lashed out and gave her mother her opinion of her. Now I could make this a long, winded, and completely unneeded opinion drop of my views of her parenting, but as I said - it is unneeded. This is simply a memoir of one woman's plight to raise her daughters, as well as the woman's identity crisis and inability to distinguish herself, a Chinese-American, from her parents Immigrated Chinese-Americans. That is not to say I did not learn something from Chua and her memoir, I have learned that of course parents are not as perfect as they try so hard to be. I have learned that, should I ever chose to have kids, I want to instill the sort of excellence and togetherness Amy and Jed tried to instill in Sophia and Lulu. I also want to do something that Amy failed to do, instill a sense of passion and willingness to learn that she had to force upon her daughters. In short, this is definitely not a parenting book, it was originally intended to be (according to Chua's own opening paragraph "this is supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. "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.") but after the fateful event of Russian Caviar (this story having been written the day after said event), Chua reexamined her life, her parenting of her youngest daughter, and how she realized she isn't always right but sometimes forcing your children to do something they don't want to do (the violin, in this case) can bring a positive effect into a child's life. Just don't take it too far and you will toe the line between "gratitude" and "resentment".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book trying to gain some understanding/insights on "tiger mom" parenting as clearly (based on worldwide results) there is something to setting high expectations and discipline in child-rearing that works. Unfortunately, I walked away concluding that Amy Chua must simply have a great PR agency working on her behalf. This book has received an enormous amount of attention - both good and bad, but it does not deserve it. Of the 199 pages, at least 40% are filler. Do we really want to know about her dog? The book feels like a disjointed combination of a personal journal (as if a therapist recommended "write it down, you'll feel better") and Chua trying to make a point that a non-western approach to raising a child can make a difference. A topic such as this would have been better tackled in a non-fiction approach with Chua developing an argument/theory for the tiger mom parenting approach, supporting it with research facts and then including her personal antidotes to add a human element - Malcolm Gladwell has figured our this writing style brilliantly - this book just feel amateurish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chua's book was a very easy and quick read that provided my 'Western' view of parenting with a very different point of view, which I always appreciate. I decided to read the book because of all the controversial press it has been getting. I found the book very well rounded, I thought that Chua fairly depicted her success and her biggest failures. The book was based on opinions and largely not backed by research; it was a window into another mother's life. 'Western' mothers of the world - do not be defensive to other points of view. Be open-minded, like you teach your children to be. If you are feeling defensive you should read Chua's book again and try to pin point what is making you feel defensive and evaluate what you think of your parenting style in that area. Learn and grow and allow yourself to change and adapt as life sees fit, but don't lynch another mother who is simply sharing her personal story with you. Chua doesn't even go as far to say that one way (Chinese vs. Western parenting) is right or wrong, so there is very little to take offense from. Just because she has different points of view don't lynch her or we will be back at the Salem witch trials for heaven sakes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i am rereading it and again it is making me laugh laugh laugh. i can totally relate. if people think that children just evolve into these highly enlightened,intelligent charming beings chances are they have below to average children! the author is honest and funny in weighing her choices in child rearing. it's thoughtful on the differences in eastern/western thinking.... i think it's a great read. i loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am sure Amy had the best intention in her mind. However, I felt so sad for her kids and was glad that Lulu rose up against her. I hope they have a happy ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Obnoxious author spends page after page bragging about herself & her familly. Theres no meat on the bone, no plot. Its tedious, just like reading someone's journal. I've tried a few times to get into it & every time I'm repelled for the same reasons.
Western_mom More than 1 year ago
Wow. Informative, yes, and an easy read but insulting from beginning to end. I kept hoping Amy would get around to admitting maybe Western parents do something right, but she didn't. Somehow I've managed to raise 4 emotionally healthy, successful, educated and creative kids the "Western" way, through love, guidance, faith and individuality. There is so much more to being a "good" parent than degrees and First Place ribbons! Indeed, there's a good life lesson in those Second and Third place ribbons. Intense, annoying and disappointing read.
Mia10_mom More than 1 year ago
Maybe we should all take a page out of this book and we wouldn't have so many spoiled children in this country...My own included. Remember, it is very hard and it takes a lot of work each day to take the time to discipline your children. Spoiling your children and letting things go is the easy way out.
Please_Pass_The_Books More than 1 year ago
First of all, this book isn't a parenting guide. It's a witty memoir about a mixed race and interfaith family. This is Ms. Chua's battle hymn. It's not intended to be made into your own. I enjoyed the book immensely. It was clever and funny. I saw a lot of my own upbringing in it, and some of the things she said—I could've sworn she had just gotten off the phone with my grandmother. Do I believe Amy Chua is the model of parenting? No, most certainly not. There were times I felt sad for her daughters (and her dogs), but I could also see past the method and into an honest woman's attempt to navigate the black abyss of parenting. The truth is: we all suck at it. But her kid got into Harvard. She had to eat a piano first, but she got there. Intelligently written, highly entertaining, and fun to read. Recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am horrified. At the time that I am writing this, 63 people have given it a one-star rating. THAT IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE CONSIDERING IT IS AS GOOD AS DICKENS OR SHAKESPEARE. Her parenting may be somewhat troublesome, but she has a method and a purpose, and her style of writing is quite nice. Amy Chua brings you through the story of the rise and fall of her children, Lulu and Sophia, musical talent and success. And it is not just about music. It also deals with tiger parenting at school and home. This is a truly extraordinary work, because even if you disagree with her message, the book is incredibly hilarious and you will not want to put it down. I am tempted to think that some parts are an exaggeration, as it seems too funny to fit in with her tale of woe on how Chinese parenting did not work on the more disobedient child. She is insanely humorous, and I am sure the book is meant to be that way. It sounds so grim (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother), but in reality it must be classified under the humor section. It is incorrect to put it in any other place. Not only is this marvelous woman NOT abusive to her children, but she is a true writer and an ABSOLUTE GENIUS. SHE DOES NOT NEED HELP. ANYONE WHO SAYS SHE NEEDS HELP IS TOTALLY AND ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT, and while she may be harsh, she is definitely meaning good, and how is it abusive to make your child play an instrument for three hours no matter what the cost? It is ridiculous, but it does not show any abusive nature. I CHALLENGE ANYONE TO FIND ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO CALL HER ABUSIVE. YOU ARE ABUSIVE TO HER BY SAYING SUCH TERRIBLE THINGS ABOUT HER ON A MAJOR WEBSITE. I AM HORRIFIED AT HOW FAR THESE PEOPLE HAVE GONE IN THEIR HATE AND CRITISYSM. Why pick on one of the only Americans who actually cares about their children's futures? This book is a masterpiece of a book, which I think every person on Earth should read. It shows the views of the type of people who you always wonder about, while still retaining it's position as a hilarious and easy read. HOW THESE PEOPLE FIND SO MUCH FAULT IN THIS WORK'S COMPOSITION IS EVEN MORE INTRIGUING THAN HOW THEY FIND ABUSE IN THE PAGES OF THIS BOOK. This woman is not an abusive crack pot. She is a person who CAN GET HER KIDS ON THE STAGE OF ONE OF THE MOST RESPECTABLE MUSIC VENUES IN AMERICA. HER ELDER DAUGHTER PREFORMS IN CARNEGIE HALL IN FRONT OF THOUSANDS, THIS WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED HAD AMY CHUA ONLY MADE HER CHILD PRACTICE A MINUTE FOR A YEAR OF AGE, AS SHE COMMENTS SOME "WESTERN-MINDED" PARENTS DO. AMY CHUA IS A GENIUS.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe this book explains why the suicide rates among Asian Americans are rising
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amy is a very strict chinese mother. I hated how the book was written. It sounds like she was bragging about the whole thing and what she did was terrible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RoseLF More than 1 year ago
I think the people who are ripping on this book either are those who haven't read it beyond the WSJ article and other articles written about this book, or those who don't get irony and self-deprecating humor. I am Chinese, though didn't have a tiger mom. I intend to raise my kids somewhat like Chua did, but slightly less extreme and with more positive reinforcement for when they do get it right. Also I think the kids' environment matters more than parenting in how they turn out. Kids care more about what their peers think than what their parents tell them to do. That's what happened in my case, though my own parents were pretty laissez-faire about everything, I was surrounded by kids who had "tiger mothers". These kids were mostly Asian, Jewish, and Indian. So it was as if I was raised by a tiger mother.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Her style of parenting may be different than yours, but everyone's parenting gets judged. She raised her children to be successful and well-rounded. Her priorities as an Asian mother are different than those of Westeners. It's a good reminder that we, as parents, need to lead our children. She also learned how to relax her rules a bit. It's honest and an over-all good read. Stop hating because it's not the way you would do things. She didn't abuse her children, just did things different than most Americans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*Runs around* PEEEEEEEEETA?! Where da hail are you?!