Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tiger Cubs, Tiger Tiger Cubs & American Battle Hymns

I started reading Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" and I suddenly realized that she's not the voice of our parents' generation, the people who are thought of as stereotypical "tiger moms." Chua is actually the voice of *our* generation.

When she talks about her childhood and upbringing, or reflects back on her life choices, she articulates the concerns and hopes and fears people like us have. She grew up in a conservative (Chinese/Fujianese) household, but chose an independent, though high-achieving, route. Her tone, her insights, her wry sense of humor -- it all sounds like *us.* It's definitely not the way our parents speak or communicate.

Chua's explanation of Asian parenting doesn't come from the perspective of a tiger mom; it comes from the perspective of a tiger cub analyzing "Asian parent" behavior, and then choosing to apply it in the lives of her own children. This style of parenting comes about not because it's the only way she knows how (as it would be with immigrant parents), but as a rational choice.

Author and professor Amy Chua

So even if her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, are close in age to us, they are actually more akin to our (future) children -- the third generation in America. The life stories that my peers and I relate to aren't theirs, but Chua's. (Lawyer mom and Jewish professor dad in New Haven? Definitely not something we are familiar with.) And given her experience growing up in America, she is more refined and sophisticated in what she chooses to do and how to justify it than your average Asian mom.

While I don't necessarily agree with all of Chua's prescriptions for parenting in the first few chapters, I do find much of the diagnosis compelling. The author's voice is unmistakably ours.

You can say "Battle Hymn" is a book about Chinese parenting, but even just a few pages in, I can already recognize it is an unequivocally American work.


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