Friday, May 13, 2011

Tiger Mom's 5 best books on being a Mother

Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and a former editor of Harvard Law Review. Her latest book is Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

At The Browser, she spoke with Eve Gerber about five books on being a mother, including:
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

Let’s move to the Mainland of Chinese mothering. You’ve chosen The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, a Pulitzer Prize winning 1931 novel about a rural Chinese couple who pull themselves out of poverty while raising a family. Tell us about it.

I read this book when I was about nine years old. It just made such an impact on me. O-Lan, the mother in this book, gives birth to two sons and two daughters, one of whom she strangles in infancy because there is not enough food to sustain the family. She’s born a slave. She’s plain and coarse. She toils silently and stoically all her life to provide for her family and is basically never rewarded. When her husband gets a little wealthier, virtually the first thing he does is take in a concubine. O-Lan has stuck with me for all these years.

Until you came along, O-Lan was certainly the most famous Chinese mother in Western literature. But not the sort of mother immortalised on greeting cards, at least in the West. She committed theft and, as you mentioned, infanticide. Was she a role model?

The story is about such a different time and different context. It’s not that I aspire to be an unrewarded, self-sacrificing, silenced woman. But O-Lan has some impressive qualities: stoicism, and a deeply internalised sense of commitment to her family. She is definitely not a role model, but there are aspects of her character that I do admire.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Top ten books on motherhood.

--Marshal Zeringue