Everyone knows of this book, whether it’s from the New York Times review, or from NPR, mothers, Asians, etc. It is also likely that most have formed an opinion without reading the book.
I really did not want to read it, partly because I do not want to read books about Asian-American experiences, but mostly because I thought this book would make me furious. However, someone read it and wanted me to read it and talk to her about it because she was amazed at the child-rearing tactics. “We do not do that in France! The school system is so different from America’s! Were you raised like this?”
Indeed, reading the book made me furious, and I often stopped to yell about it to M., who bore this both stoically and with laughter, but mostly with side-eyes. I had to stop reading several times because my brain was going to explode. As a result, it took me a week to read this little book, and it should have taken a few hours.
This book is a recount of Amy Chua’s tactics of raising her kids to be smart, brilliant, and admired so that she can congratulate herself and pat herself on the back.
Okay, so that last bit is my interpretation of the situation, but I feel that it is an accurate one. The entire book is how everything is related to her: the interpreted slackness of American child rearing, being an immigrant child in America, raising children, her family’s situations, etc. Perhaps this should not be unexpected, as this book is written from her perspective. Nevertheless, the degree to which she makes the world revolve around herself is appalling, and combined with the pervasive feeling of smug, self-superiority, this book is palatable only in small doses.
Chua is against the so-called American easy-going attitude, and she was going to make sure her children did not get this American attitude by drilling them ceaselessly in math, music, and whatever else she deemed to be appropriate. The main focus of the forced drills is music, likely because it is the source of the majority of the clashes she has with her family.
Chua is that Asian mom that other kids look at in horror. The one that flipped out at your friend for getting a 98/100? The one that called your classmate worthless for placing 3rd in that music competition? The one that told you, “You are a disappointment and a failure. How can you shame me like this!” It makes the book very difficult to read.
The gist I’m getting from this book is that Chua believes herself to be refined, superior, and always right. After all, she is the daughter of a known scientist, a Harvard graduate, a Yale Law professor, and mother of musically gifted children. She did everything right by her family and children, and she will tell you that in her book. Even her so-called comeuppance isn’t a comeuppance. For that to be true, she would have to believe she was in the wrong. At the end of the book, it is difficult to see if Chua alters her standpoint enough to realize she is not the sole arbitrator of what is right.
This book does not accomplish much outside of a cathartic exposition for Chua, as it neither proves nor disproves her methods. People who already believe in Chua’s methods will use this book to support their beliefs, whilst those who are against her methods will use it to support theirs.
Personally, I did not enjoy this book. I do not feel like rereading it, nor do I want to buy myself a copy. I found it grating and offensive to read, and do not recall any passages as ideas or stories that I should remember.