The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.
This book got a lot of attention a while back. Amy Chua is a second-generation Chinese immigrant, married to a Jewish lawyer turned academic. She tried a highly intensive parenting style on her two daughters, insisting on three hours music practice every day, as well as permanent high grades in school, at the expense of most socializing and relaxation. Both daughters became apparent child prodigies at their instruments, but the younger daughter eventually rebelled and refused to continue at more than an amateur level.
Chua is fairly stridently in favour of this parenting style, though she does have some misgivings. I suspect that she's taken it to extremes though. I doubt most Chinese parents sit with their children for three hours music practice per day. It's not clear to me why music in particular justifies it.
Overall though, an interesting book, which makes some good points about how children can benefit from some degree of parental pushing, and that self-esteem comes from earned success not over-praising.
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically 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:
- attend a sleepover
- have a playdate
- be in a school play
- 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 No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
- play any instrument other than the piano or violin
- not play the piano or violin.
What I'm Reading 2
I read through Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care a while ago, and I'm slowly going through it again with Girl B.
Classic childcare book, originally written in 1946, but it's been regularly updated with the latest medical information. This version was updated by Robert Needlman in 2012, since Spock's not around anymore. My parents had an older version on their bookshelves, we all survived, and it's pretty cheap on Amazon so I got it. It seems to be very out of fashion though, Penelope Leach seems a lot more popular.
It seems to be pretty decent: factual and to the point with detailed information
on breastfeeding, weaning and so on. The famous "Trust yourself, you know more
than you think you do" opening now seems to be a bit undermined by the huge
list of all the horrible diseases that will kill your baby afterwards.
The Kindle edition is a bit US-centric, with information
about US services and helplines and federal program
mes and hospitals
which aren't a lot of use here.
Overall, seems like a good book, but won't really know until the end of this year.
What I'm Reading 3
My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen. A kind of comedy/romance novel about a 19th century Danish prostitute who stumbles across a time machine leading to 21st century London. Light reading but a lot of fun, with some nice comic touches and engaging characters The publishers seem to be aiming it at the chick-lit market, but could appeal to anybody.
What I'm Reading 4
Picked up Antwerp by Roberto Bolano at the library. Short experimental novella written in a fractured style, apparently set in the underworld of the Costa Brava.
I didn't realize it, but this was the unpublished first novel by an acclaimed writer. To be honest, it's pretty awful, reads like a poor pastiche of William Burroughs, though it might work a lot better in the original Spanish if the prose is a major part of the appeal.
What I'm Reading 5
On Wheels by Michael Holroyd. Very short book by a biographer, with motoring anecdotes from his own life and his biographical subjects, including George Bernard Shaw. Warm and witty, reminded me of a modern Jerome K. Jerome, but very slight.
What I'm Watching
Saw A Late Quartet on disk. Drama about long-established string quartet, whose relationships are put under strain when one member is diagnosed with Parkinson's.
Liked it a lot. Feels like a very pure drama, all about characters and relationships. Has brilliant performances all round, especially from Christopher Walken, for once playing a warmly sympathetic character, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the second violinist.
The movie's a good example of why you don't have to have the end of the world to make a movie compelling. Well worth seeing.
Saw Home at the National Theatre. (Mostly) verbatim theatre based on interviews at a large London homeless shelter, with residents and staff telling the stories of their experiences. Also has some music, and a great human beatbox performance from Grace Savage.
Liked it a lot, though it's not quite as impressive as the superb verbatim theatre musical London Road which I saw there a while back.
Slightly hampered by the lack of plot, but the characters make up for it.
Darkside is a radio play by Tom Stoppard, based around the album "The Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd. Interesting idea as characters from various famous philosophical thought experiments, like the trolley-problem switchman and a fat man thrown from a balloon, meet in an imaginary landscape. However it's a bit let down by sentimentality and preachiness at the end. Reminded me a bit of his play Rock'n'Roll, music doesn't seem to bring out the best in him. Not brilliant.
Socioeconomics. Disasters more likely to get relief if other news is slow, PDF, via.
Politics. Conservatives should be wary of reflexive hostility to left-wing prats defending our freedoms. The "political and administrative landscape in Britain has much in common with that of the former Soviet Union" New law could gag charities.
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