What I Read This Week – 8/23/12 – 8/29/12

29 Aug

As class starts tomorrow, I tried to power through as many fun reading books as I could this past week. The four books split very neatly into two categories: weight loss memoirs and parenting advice/memoirs. Basically, this is what happens if you let me loose in a library. I pick up a whole lot of books that I would never, ever buy, and yet I have a bizarre fascination with the topic.


I’m Not the New Me by Wendy McClure

The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl by Shauna Reid

As I have recently managed to lose about 30 lbs, I have a  bit of interest in this topic at the moment. I know how much dedication and strength it takes to make a change to your body, and I wanted to see how other women have handled it. Both of these books are by successful bloggers, who openly wrote about their weight loss experiences. Both women had struggles and triumphs. Both used a variety of methods to get the weight off. But, wow, one book is better than the other.

The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl by Shauna Reid follows the author from her very large life in Australia to her happy ending with Scottish husband in Edinburgh. Between Australia and Scotland she loses a ton of weight, has a website (which she barely writes about)…and that’s about it. I felt like there was no story here. It wasn’t very funny. It wasn’t that inspiring. Nope, it was just a journal about a normal woman slowly losing weight. Yes, it’s a great accomplishment! She lost a fricking TON of weight. But there just wasn’t anything besides that to the book. I ended up reading it super fast, as there wasn’t anything in it to think about or digest. Pure, kinda boring fluff.

I’m Not the New Me by Wendy McClure (also the author of The Wilder Life which I read this past spring) is definitely a stronger narrative. Wendy had a popular blog (or weblog, as she so cutely calls it in her early 2000’s language), in which she more sarcastically looked at the world of weight loss. She lost weight, just as Shauna did, but she is a heck of a lot more sarcastic and funny about it. She’s more conflicted as well, as she doesn’t seem to view fat as the end all, be all of her existence, as Shauna does. This leads to a more nuanced memoir, with funny anecdotes about friends, sad break-ups and disgusting vintage Weight Watcher recipe cards. While this is still a pretty fluffy book and nothing ground breaking, it is by far the more interesting memoir.


Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

It was so much fun to read these two books back to back! They were both huge splashes last year (at least on NPR, where I heard about both of them) and they espouse 100% different parenting philosophies, one of which I agree with A LOT, and another that makes me kind of want to kill myself.

Bringing Up Bébé follows the trend of anything French = so chic and better than American, by stating that French parents know how to make their kids actually behave instead of letting them run wild. Now, I tend to doubt this general Francophile trend, because I think it oversimplifies a very complicated culture, but I do love the parenting philosophies put forth in this book. Give your kid boundaries, but then let them have a lot of freedom within those boundaries. Expose them to a very large variety of food from the time they’re a baby. They do not get special meals that are different than the rest of the family. Teach them the importance of waiting. Do not attend to the immediately. Do not over schedule their lives. It’s important for them to be bored sometimes and deal with that emotion, instead of constantly being in adult arranged activities. And, most importantly, do not lose sight of who you are as a woman beyond just being a mommy. Every night have adult time — not wrangling kids into bed time, actual adult time. Now, as I’m not anywhere near being a parent, I don’t know how feasible this is, but I love the idea behind it.

Now, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is as different as possible to that philosophy. Amy Chua has a couple of daughters, and she decides, from the start, that they will be musical prodigies. She sits with them as they practice the violin and piano for hours every day. She makes no allowance for illness, for vacations (she writes of epic searches for pianos to practice on throughout the world), or for sanity breaks. She’s relentless. And it works! Her daughter performs as a teen at Carnegie Hall. Her other daughter pretty much wants to kill her though, so it certainly isn’t the happiest of parenting styles.

I can’t imagine parenting like this. It’s the most rigid, bizarre practice I’ve ever heard of. Amy Chua is a smart lawyer, and yet she loses her identity completely to become the musical taskmaster. It made me a bit sick to read about. And I would love for her daughters to write their own memoirs in a few years. Yes, they seem smart and capable, but will growing up in this kind of pressure cooker environment mess them up? How will they do when they’re on their own?

I was just exhausted after reading this book. Exhausted and depressed, even though Chua manages to include a slightly self-deprecating humor. If that’s the Chinese parenting style as she claims it is, I’ll stick with the French, thankyouverymuch.


One Response to “What I Read This Week – 8/23/12 – 8/29/12”

  1. Laura August 29, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    I Amy Chua on something (Newsnight? Something…) and she terrified me and I was kind of really really glad that she wasn’t my mum. So there’s that! And I have read approximately one weight loss memoir and actually it was more about what it was like for this woman being really really big (she was like HUGE) rather than how the weight loss happened, and I think because of that I really liked it. It was Butterbabe by Rebecca Golden, if you’re interested! (It was totally a library book that I would never buy too!)

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