RI Center for the Book

Letters About Literature 2013 – Allison Paul

Level 3 State Winner Allison Paul from LaSalle Academy, Providence, reads her letter to author Amy Chua about the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Dear Amy Chua,

Before I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I thought that my mother was excessively and unreasonably strict.  At least, she was stricter than my friends’ mothers.  I thought it was unfair that she forced me to play the piano at age four and the viola at age seven.  I used to resent the fact that she would not tolerate an A-minus on a test that many failed.  I remember proudly bringing home a 98 on a math test and her response, “What happened to the other two points?  Didn’t you check your answers?”  Your book has shown me not only that there is a method to her madness, but that I am who I am because of this parenting style.

While reading your book, I was struck by how identical my family is to yours.  Like you, my mother is the daughter of two immigrants from China.  She was also born in the year of the tiger and married a white man.  She too, upholds the Chinese parenting style, although with slightly less vigor.  My mother and my father have two daughters, my older sister, Sam, and me.  Sam and I even have similar personalities as your daughters, Sophia and Lulu.  Sam is calm and mellow.  I, on the other hand, am fiercely stubborn and can get angry easily.

Because of the parallels in our families, I felt that my own mother was narrating your autobiography.  The only time it was clear that my mother was not narrating the story was when you talked about your dogs.  My mother doesn’t even go near dogs!  I heard her explaining why she is hard on me, why she demands so much.  She does it because she loves me; it is as simple as that.  I always knew that my mother is doing what is best for me, but I never truly understood how grateful I should be to her.  Through your descriptions of your struggles with your daughters, you taught me that Chinese parenting is even harder for the parent than it is for the child.  I never thought about the sacrifices my own mother was making.  I only thought about the sleepovers I could not attend or the lazy summers I never had.  Thank you.  Thank you for showing me that my mother only raises me in this way for me.

After reading your book this summer, I thought about who I would be if my mother did not raise me the Chinese way.  Would I be as good at math?  Would I like the same things?  Would I be the driven and hardworking young woman I have become?  It is scary to think about.  Overall, I am glad my mother was a “tiger mother.’  Sometimes, I even wish she made me practice the viola more – imagine how much better I would be now!  Since I, too, was born in the year of the tiger, I plan on being a tiger mother to all my future children.  I will write to you again if I need any tips!

Say “hi” to your daughters for me!

Thank you, Allison

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