Like many mothers Amy seems at odds with herself as she defends and doubts her daily choices, most of them regarding pushing her daughters in their artistic pursuits. Filled with memorable anecdotes, Battle Hymn illustrates the difficulty in striking a balance between parental expectations and modern realities.
Here are a few of my favorite passages from the book.
It’s not easy to make your kids work when they don’t want to, to put in grueling hours when your own youth is slipping away, to convince your kids they can do something when they (and maybe even you) are fearful that they can’t. “Do you know how many years you’ve taken off my life?” I’m constantly asking my girls. “You’re both lucky that I have enormous longevity as indicated by my thick good-luck earlobes.”
Unlike my Western friends, I can never say, “As much it kills me, I just have to let my kids make their choices and follow their hearts. It’s the hardest thing in the world, but I’m doing my best to hold back.” Then they get to have a glass of wine and go to a yoga class whereas I have to stay home and scream and have my kids hate me.
…Chinese parenting is incredibly lonely—at least if you’re trying to do it in the West, where you’re on your own. You have to go up against an entire value system --- rooted in the Enlightenment, individual autonomy, child development theory, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights--- and there’s no one you can talk to honestly, not even people you like and deeply respect”
Whether the Chua children are the beneficiaries of Chinese parenting or its victims is one question readers will have to decide for themselves though it wouldn’t surprise me if either of the high-achieving youngsters grew up to pen their own memoir one day.