Hi, I’m Amy Chua, and thanks so much for visiting my website! Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the story of my family’s journey in two cultures.
I wrote this book in a moment of crisis, when my younger daughter seemed to turn against everything I stood for and it felt like I was losing her and everything was falling apart. After one terrible fight, I sat down at my computer, and even though I usually have writer’s block, this time the words just poured out. I showed every page to my daughters and my husband. It was like family therapy. In retrospect, I think writing the book – going back eighteen years when my elder daughter was born and I was a very different person – was an attempt to put the pieces back together and work things out for myself . . . and the story is unfinished!
I was raised by very strict, Chinese immigrant parents, who came to the U.S. as graduate students with practically no money. My mother and father were so poor they couldn’t afford heat their first two winters in Boston, and wore blankets around to keep warm. As parents, they demanded total respect and were very tough with my three younger sisters and me. We got in trouble for A minuses, had to drill math and piano every day, no sleepovers, no boyfriends. But the strategy worked with me. To this day, I’m very close to my parents, and I feel I owe them everything. In fact, I believe that my parents having high expectations for me – coupled with love – is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. That’s why I tried to raise my own two daughters the same way my parents raised me.
With my first daughter, Sophia, things went smoothly. But then my second daughter, Lulu, came along – she’s a real fireball; we have very similar personalities – and I got my come-uppance. We locked horns from day one, and at thirteen, she rebelled. This book is basically the story of my own transformation as a mother. It’s not a parenting book; it’s a memoir. It’s also supposed to be funny, filled with zany showdowns between me and daughters, who have all the best lines and are always calling my bluff.
With all that said, the book does have a point of view. While I definitely have regrets, if I had to raise my girls all over again, I guess I would basically do the same thing, with some adjustments. I’m not holding myself out as a model, but I do believe that we in America can ask more of children than we typically do, and they will not only respond to the challenge, but thrive. I think we should assume strength in our children, not weakness. And I think it is 100% All-American to do so!
Jokes aside about A+s and gold medals (much of my book is self-parody), in the end for me it’s not about grades or Ivy League schools. It’s about believing in your child more than anyone else – more than they believe in themselves – and helping them realize their potential, whatever it may be. My youngest sister, Cindy, has Down Syndrome, and I remember my mother spending hours and hours with her, teaching her to tie her own shoelaces, drilling multiplication tables, practicing piano every day with her. My mom wanted her to be the best she could be, within her limits. Today, Cindy works at Walmart, has a boyfriend, and still plays piano – one of her favorite things is performing for her friends. She and my mom have a wonderful relationship, and we all love her for who she is.
My book has been controversial. Many people have misunderstood it. If I could push a magic button and choose either happiness or success for my children, I’d choose happiness in a second. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that; it can be a tough world out there, and true self-esteem has to be earned.
I genuinely believe that there are many ways of being a good parent. We all want our kids to grow up happy, strong, and self-reliant. But different cultures have very different ideas about the best way to do that. And we should all be able to learn from each other.