By simply reading the front cover of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the root of most controversy surrounding the seemingly blunt “how to” parenting guide would be immediately resolved. Although, for much of this memoir it does seem that the focus is on the superiority of Chinese parenting to the “American Way”, if it were simply a tutorial on how to be a totalitarian dictator, parents of the Western world would have condemned it to the worst-selling list faster than you can say “Shīwàng”. However, the stimulating and personal rummage through the darks and lights of Amy Chua’s dirty laundry exposes that this is “about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how [she] was humbled by a thirteen-year-old” – Just as it claims on the front cover.
Her incredibly witty narrative of her life as THE tiger mom is full of contradicting statements about the success and fool-proofness of the “Chinese way”. Throughout the opening of the proclaimed “self-parody” she constantly drills the importance of overriding the preferences of children; in her mind “Western parents” tend to start going wrong here, from the “get-go”, because they are weak and “tend to give up.” One of her children in particular, Lulu, takes a special amount of work. Lulu is not one to be told what to do easily and does not have the same response to Chua’s tyrannical parenting as her sister, Sophia. She begins to rebel against her mother’s decision for her to pursue violin. What ensues are countless hours of arguing and nothing less than “All out nuclear warfare.” As Amy participates in these bouts of warfare with her young child, obviously not realizing the pitfalls in her perfect “method”, the reader is further enraged; after all, not only were the ignorant statements about the perfection of Chinese parenting not proven, but Chua is not even willing to admit it. Throughout almost the entirety of the book, the poor girl is screaming out to deaf ears and it’s enough to have the pressing desire to slap Amy Chua across the face with a big fat copy of Battle Hymn of the Parent Who Listens. It takes Lulu lobbing off her hair with scissors and smashing glasses in the middle of a restaurant for Amy Chua to face the fact that something has to change.
Fortunately, it is at this point that Chua does confront the mistake of trying to rely so heavily upon “methods” instead of adapting to the needs of her child as an individual. This is the part where the title “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” and the contents of other controversial reviews of the book becomes entirely inaccurate and irrelevant to the real meaning of the book. In reality, it is a piece based on self-growth and the evolution of Amy Chua as a parent; and is, therefore, really a story of being humbled by a thirteen year old.