Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua; Penguin Press, 256 pages ($25.95)
Amy Chua, a professor of law at Yale University, is an American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants from the Philippines. "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" is a chatty, witty, intimate memoir of how she raised two daughters in hyper-severe Chinese style amid the children of permissive American parents.
Chua's father, a leading theorist of advanced mathematics, gave her a model for perfectionism. In eighth grade, she placed second in a history contest. Someone else was named best all-around student. She invited her family to the ceremony. "Afterward," she writes, "my father said to me: 'Never, never, disgrace me like that again.'"
Though generous with family fun and affection, she denied her daughters, Sophia and Louisa (Lulu), experiences that are important to young Americans: no TV, no pets, no computer games, no sleep-overs, no play dates, no grades under A, no parts in school plays, no complaints about not having parts in school plays, no choice of extracurricular activities, nothing less than top place in any school class except gym and drama, no musical instruments except piano or violin.
Compulsory for the girls: speed drills in math, exclusive use of the family's Chinese dialect at home, lessons in Mandarin Chinese, long hours of music practice closely coached by Chua, with double sessions on weekends and no break on vacations.
Music has been a primary concern -- Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Dvorak. The program worked, in part. Sophia won a contest at 14 that brought her a piano recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
There was much family discussion of how the book would end. Chua finally suggests a possible road toward reconciling Chinese and American attitudes toward education. Parents can judge how practical it may be.
-- Associated Press