Table of Contents
ALSO BY AMY CHUA
Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance—and Why They Fall
World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy
Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability
THE PENGUIN PRESS
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London W C2R 0RL, England
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in 2011 by The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Copyright © Amy Chua, 2011
All rights reserved
Portions of Chapter Four first appeared as “On Becoming American” in
Defining a Nation: Our America and the Sources of Its Strength,
edited by David Halberstam (National Geographic, 2003).
Bachrach Photography: page 30
© Susan Bradley Photography: 168
Peter Z. Mahakian: 216, 223
All other photographs from the author’s family collection.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Battle hymn of the tiger mother / Amy Chua.
Includes bibliographical references.
1. Chua, Amy. 2. Mothers-United States-Biography. 3. Chinese American women-Biography. 4. Mothers and daughters-China. 5. Mothers and daughters-United States. I. Title.
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For Sophia and Louisa
And for Katrin
This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. It’s also about Mozart and Mendelssohn, the piano and the violin, and how we made it to Carnegie Hall.
to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones.
But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.
The Tiger, the living symbol of strength and power, generally inspires fear and respect.
The Chinese Mother
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereo-typically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.
I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I recently met a supersuccessful white guy from South Dakota (you’ve seen him on television), and after comparing notes we decided that his working-class father had definitely been a Chinese mother. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish, and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are
Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise.
I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Westerners are far more diverse in their parenting styles than the Chinese. Some Western parents are strict; others are lax. There are same-sex parents, Orthodox Jewish parents, single parents, ex-hippie parents, investment banker parents, and military parents. None of these “Western” parents necessarily see eye to eye, so when I use the term “Western parents,” of course I’m not referring to all Western parents—just as “Chinese mother” doesn’t refer to all Chinese mothers.