Cover Image: The Tiger Mom's Tale

The Tiger Mom's Tale

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Member Reviews

After more than 20 years estranged from her father and stepfamily in Taiwan, Lexa goes back to grapple with the stepmother who forced her out. Raised by white parents, with a white sister, in NYC, Lexa struggled with her identity, dealt with a thousand microaggressions, and pretty much shunned her Taiwanese culture.

The book alternates between current day and 22 years ago, the last time Lexa was in Taiwan. Complicated family dynamics dominate both periods in Lexa's life. Her stepmother views 14-year old Lexa as some kind of would-be usurper and in present day, her American sister Maddie is a real piece of work with some problematic attitudes about the LGBTQ+ community (it's a little unclear if they stem from the breakup of their parents' marriage, or not). 

Asian American readers will be all too familiar with the racism and microaggressions Lexa deals with in her daily life, and for others, if at times it feels like the author is lobbing every possible aggression in there, you'll get a sense of how real the problem actually is day in, day out.

For me, where the book gets interesting is when Lexa finally goes back to Taiwan. I actually wish we'd spent more time there in present day, as the story line wraps up pretty fast once she gets there. And I didn't totally believe one character's transformation. That said, I really enjoyed reading a contemporary Asian American story that had nothing to do with wars or generational trauma. And I'd be really interested in another book with Lexa and Hsu-Ling that really lets them explore sisterhood as adults. 

3.5 stars
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The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler was a highly interesting read with many complexities and themes. 

This story centers around Lexa and her complex family drama. When her biological father passed away, Lexa is asked to return to Taiwan to help resolve her father’s estate. Unfortunately, that means she’ll have to face her step-mom, who chased her away so many years ago. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it’s many intricacies in the plot. I think it painted a realistic picture of a complex family and their relationships and problems. At times it did seem like there was a lot going on, but that is often how life works.  I also really enjoyed how the story was told from dual timelines, one in present day and one in the past, building up to the events that caused an estranged relationship between Lexa and her biological father. I also really liked Lexa as a main character. She was relatable and demonstrated the qualities of a good friend and sister. I also admired her growth throughout the novel in processing her past and gaining the strength to move forward.
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The book is touching, humourous, and so heartfelt. I find the book's portrayal of family love and self-journey overly realistic, relatable, and very charming! The debut novel follows the main character, Lexa, as she finds out that her estranged Taiwanese father has passed away. In his will, he gives her an ultimatum that will send her to Taichung, setting her up for a confrontation that might finally put unresolved feelings, especially about her father to rest. The layered aspects of the complexity of each character and relationship give the story authenticity The climactic scene - OOF! 
The author is my new favorite, and so happy to purchase a physical copy! 

Thank you, NetGalley and Berkley for the ARC for an exchange of my honest review.
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This is the story of Lexa, a woman whose estranged father is Taiwanese and she was raised by her white mom and stepdad in New York. The book chronicles Lexa’s few visits with her father and his family in Taiwan and insinuates that something happened when she was a teen, completely fracturing their relationship but the mystery of that event is not disclosed until the end of the book. There is so much to unpack with this book. The dual timelines emphasize how you must confront the past to embrace the present. Lexa’s life is a mess and her family has so much going on - her parents’ marriage ending, her mom finding a new sexuality, her has sisters - one in Taiwan and one in New York, each with their own problems - each pulling her in a different direction. It created a jumble of things going on at once but it also led to very honest discussions of racism, homophobia, disability discrimination and fetishes. There were some very intense, stressful moments that angered me but there were also many humorous and touching moments and the descriptions of yummy food made my mouth water. But above it all, this book portrayed strong, resilient women who followed their hearts and their dreams with the love and support of their devoted family and friends.
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THE TIGER MOM'S TALE by Lyn Liao Butler is a debut novel which employs family dynamics and humor to explore feelings of acceptance and belonging. In some ways, it feels like a coming of age story for the main character, Lexa, who has been estranged from her Taiwanese father since age fourteen. The circumstances surrounding their rift is a key mystery in the novel – even though Lexa is now a thirty-something personal trainer dealing with her parents' separation, her mother's attraction to another woman, and her own efforts at dating. Half-white and half Asian, Lexa is also coping with the jealousy between her half-sisters – Maddie who is American and Hsu-Ling from Taiwan. At times relying a bit much on stereotypes, Butler does convincingly build empathy for Lexa as she struggles with life-changing decisions and questions of self-identity.
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I wrote this book from my experiences as a Taiwanese-American, growing up looking Asian on the outside but feeling American on the inside. But it is only one perspective, which is why it's so important to have more Asian-American experiences represented. Thank you for supporting AAPI authors. Whether you liked it or not, thank you for reading and discussing!
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This ARC was offered in exchange of an honest and impartial review:
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3*
Pros: Centered around reconnecting to an estranged family and heritage. A good description of the duality between the American and Taiwanese cultures. Focused on family relationships, both toxic and healthy ones. Disability representation.
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Cons: Ignorant and unnecessary homophobic and racist remarks (like being angry for being called "exotic" and using the same word to describe people from other ethnicities). "Forgive blood-relations, because they're family" trope, which I am immensely against.
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Trigger warning: Sexual harassment, pedophilia accusations, racism, colorism.
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The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler is a dynamic multicultural family drama that leans in hard to themes of family, secrets, and sisterhood.

It also made me crave boba, and I had to run out and grab some bubble tea while reading.

This tale follows three sisters and their interwoven American and Taiwanese families as secrets and lies threaten to tear their lives apart. When a devastating incident causes Lexa to walk away from her Taiwanese family at age 14, she never anticipates that she’ll hold the fate of that family in her hands over 20 years later.

My only small quibble with this book is that I am not the biggest fan of books that dangle a BIG SECRET over the reader’s head for too long. This book walked that fine line. We finally heard the reason for Lexa’s exile about halfway through the book, which was almost too long IMO. “Just tell us already!!! 😂”

I loved the descriptions of both NYC and Taiwan in this book. It took me back to the night markets of Taipei where I had the best chicken I’ve ever eaten…seriously…as well as so many other delicious foods. I always tend to love books where food is a key element, even if it makes me hungry. 

Many thanks to partner @berkleypub, NetGalley, and the author for sharing this book with me. All thoughts are my own.
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One of the greatest gifts reading for Read It Or List It gives me is that I often find myself reading books I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards. We all know I’ve been on a romance kick, so I don’t typically reach for women’s fiction but the synopsis of The Tiger Mom’s Tale completely grabbed me. And then I had the pleasure of interviewing the author, Lyn Liao Butler, which is coming to the podcast very soon! 

Synopsis: “Lexa Thomas has never quite fit in. Having grown up in a family of blondes while more closely resembling Constance Wu, she's neither white enough nor Asian enough. Visiting her father in Taiwan as a child, Lexa thought she'd finally found a place where she belonged. But that was years ago, and even there, some never truly considered her to be a part of the family.When her estranged father dies unexpectedly, leaving the fate of his Taiwanese family in Lexa's hands, she is faced with the choice to return to Taiwan and claim her place in her heritage . . . or leave her Taiwanese family to lose their home for good. Armed with the advice of two half-sisters (one American and the other Taiwanese, who can't stand each other), a mother who has reevaluated her sexuality, a man whose kisses make her walk into walls, and her self-deprecating humor, Lexa finds the courage to leave the comfort of New York City to finally confront the person who drove her away all those decades ago.With fond memories of eating through food markets in Taiwan and forming a bond with a sister she never knew she had, Lexa unravels the truth of that last fateful summer and realizes she must stand up for herself and open her heart to forgiveness, or allow the repercussions of her family's choices to forever dictate the path of her life.” —Via Amazon

What I Liked: 

The Pacing—Honestly, I was hooked from the first chapter, which I feel like hasn’t happened for me with a book in a LONG time. The writing is readable, fast paced, and dramatic. A perfect summer read! 

The Characters—I loved Lexa and her sisters, Hsu-Ling and Maddie (thought Maddie can take a while to warm up to). I also LOVED her dad, Greg, and her father Jing-Tao. 

The Food—The FOOD!!! I loved how Lyn wrote about food in this book. I was so hungry while reading and it was such a cool window into the Taiwanese culture.  

What Didn’t Work For Me: 

Not much! I found this books very entertaining and also heartwarming. It might be a little too dramatic for some readers’ tastes, but I was all in. 

TW/CW: Car accident, Death of parent, Death, Violence, Sexual harassment, Racism, Xenophobia, and Blood

Character Authenticity: 5/5    Steam Rating: N/A      Overall Rating: 4.5/5
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The audiobook is excellent and highly recommended as the narrator does a fantastic job. The novel is also excellent but in a way that is challenging for me… Generally I love a good family secret novel but this one is generating some complicated feelings. The problematic relationship between Lexa & her step-mom has been triggering and overall there is so much tension and friction between all of the characters that has me worried over how it will all resolve. Please note that I am not holding this against the novel as it might have more to do with my own baggage. I think this book is doing for me what excellently written fiction can do when not delivering an escapist experience, it is making me face some thorny topics in a safe way.
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If you love a story with a secret at it's core, you won't be disappointed by this read. The unfolding of the secret  just teeters on frustrating. I mean to say, its like when the chapter ends and you go "oh come on, tell me what happened already.!" So you just keep going until it is revealed. The author uses this device flawlessly. Along with this central storyline there are wonderful relationships in the story between sisters and family. The story goes back and forth in time and place, alternating to Taiwan and you get some wonderful descriptions of food along the way. Book clubs will enjoy this.
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Thank you to Berkley Pub for the digital arc of this title.

One sentence review:  I thought this story was an interesting one that tells the story of a girl of mixed heritage who finds out about her estranged father's death and is forced to face painful experiences from her past to move forward in the present.

Tiger Mom's Tale centers around Lexa.  Her mother, and the family she grew up in, are all blond haired, while Lexa looks like her father, a man living with his family in Taiwan.  As a result Lexa has always felt as though she didn't quite belong.  As a young child when she visits her father in Taiwan, she finally feels as though she belongs, until something goes terribly wrong.   Decades later Lexa is forced to face this past when her father passes away.

My thoughts:

- I thought the author did an excellent job of capturing that sense of not quite fitting in anywhere that people of mixed heritage are often made to feel.  As someone of mixed heritage myself, this element of the book really spoke to me.
- I enjoyed learning more about Taiwan. I also like how the author explained Lexa's years of Chinese School so that she would be conversant enough in Mandarin to be able to speak with her family members in Taiwan.
- The story really hooked me from the start.  However as the story progressed it felt like it went a little long.  Things started to feel repetitive and probably could have been resolved a little quicker.

I recommend this book to people looking for a book with Asian American or mixed heritage representation. It would also be a good choice for those that enjoy family dramas.
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I am absolutely awestruck by this stellar debut. This book had everything that I love within its pages: a complicated family; nuanced, highly imperfect characters that I still empathized with; secrets coming to light years later; beautiful prose and pacing; and themes of redemption, identity, forgiveness, and family.

While my own experience as a Chinese American is very different than the MC Lexa’s (who is Taiwanese-American, estranged from her Taiwanese heritage and embracing fully her American side at the start of the book), I felt so seen in her. Whether it’s her dating experiences (dealing with “yellow fever”), fluctuating between not feeling American enough or Asian enough, or balancing her Taiwanese side with her white family (she takes after her Taiwanese father, not her American mother). I have felt those struggles my whole life, and this book put that experience so beautifully into words in a character who was strong, intelligent, and likable, but with a lot to learn and room to grow.

This family drama had twists I would never have guessed, and I loved how it switched back and forth in time, revealing the secrets with great pacing. Even the most unlikable characters forced me to try to empathize with them by the end, which takes a great writer to be able to do. This book made me smile and it made me cry. It made my mouth water with all the delicious food descriptions! But most importantly, it reminded me that no family is perfect and it’s never too late to forgive and seek peace, while not condoning the wrong actions of others.

I feel like this book is not getting the hype it deserves! So hopefully this review encourages someone to pick it up — I can’t wait to see what else Lynn Liao Butler comes up with in the future!
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Lexa’s white, blond American mom had an affair while on vacation and got pregnant with Alexa.  She unsuccessfully tried to find the baby’s father. A few years later, her friends found him (they’d had overlapping friend groups).  He was Taiwanese and was thrilled to learn about Alexa.  At this point both of her parents had married and Lexa had two younger half-sisters.  Lexa started a relationship with her biological dad.  His wife was not thrilled with this relationship (understatement!).  Lexa visited Taiwan or her father visited the States until  she was fourteen.  Something happened in Taiwan and the visits and contact stopped.  She’s now in her mid-thirties and working as a personal trainer in NYC.  Her Taiwanese half-sister calls her with the news that her father had suddenly died.  She also asks Alexa to come to Taiwan.

Along with Lexa figuring out how she feels about her father’s death and the opportunity to face her Taiwanese relatives again, she is also in the early stages of a relationship.  And her American half-sister, Maddie, is struggling in her relationship.  Her mother is questioning her sexuality.  Her Taiwanese half-sister has a disability and is struggling to protect her Taiwanese family.  All of these storylines going on at the same time made this story feel both a little over the top (soap opera, anyone?) and kind of real.  Life is messy and there often is a lot going on.  Because there was so much going on, we didn’t go too deep into a lot of the scenarios.  Personally, I found this to be an enjoyable read and was comfortable with everything that was going on with all the characters. It definitely kept me engaged!

Themes and content include: family estrangement, evil step-mother, identity issues (not American or Chinese enough), traumatic event, grief

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This is such a cute story and it's a breath of fresh air to see more bi-racial representation where I can relate to SO MUCH MORE.  Completely understand being half white and half Asian and not being fully accepted in either country.  Butler also touches on the fetishization of Asian women and those scenes rang all too true unfortunately. And I certainly remember my mom wondering where the other 3 points went when I got a 97 on a test once. I HEAR YOU, Lexa & Hsu-Ling! 

This debut really teaches a few lessons and was relatable on so many levels.  I did find a few things that didn't *quite* work for me.  I felt that Lexa and Josh are eye rolly - too much too fast for how long they "knew" each other. Sometimes the dialogue didn't feel very natural and it could veer too much on the side of after school special.  I also don't care for men who continually questions if a woman actually doesn't want to have children when they say they don't... but I get it a little bit in this case.  Still made my butt pucker a bit.

What is absolutely FANTASTIC about this book are the lessons within.  I love, love, LOVE understanding so much how Lexa felt in Taiwan as that's how I feel in Korea all the time.  I love that there is queer and disabled represenation within this read. I love the dual storylines and the atmosphere the author gives us while we travel to Taiwan. Absolutely looking forward to the next book from this author.
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Reading about Lexa’a story as she struggles with all the changes in her life and revisiting her past was very interesting. The story was well told between the past and the present and seeing the relationships between the families Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC. .
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Lexa has never been white enough or Asian enough for her family, which has always left her on the outside. Years ago, she felt like she had a place in Taiwan with her father, but that's water under the bridge now. Her father has died, leaving Lexa with a rather large inheritance, but that also brings her to a crossroads. She can choose to leave her family in Taiwan behind forever, or she can confront the past and claim her place in the family. In order to do that, she'll need to gather her courage, her half-sisters, and her mom to remove the wedge that was driven between her and her family all that time ago.

Family can be tough sometimes, can't it? I really felt for Lexa as she dealt with being torn between cultures, how she wasn't doing this enough or that enough, and how the people who were supposed to love her instead shunned her simply for being caught in between some intense family drama since childhood. Lexa and her father used to get along, and then things changed, and it wasn't necessarily their fault. Why did it all happen? Lexa doesn't have much of a choice but to return to Taiwan and dig up old memories when her father's will indicates she needs to return home to claim what is hers.

However, it's not what's in the will, but what's in Lexa's heart, that remains the most important. The Tiger Mom's tale is a story of courage, family drama, and the chance for new beginnings, assuming the ghosts of the past can be put to rest. Recommended for readers who might have felt like an outsider in their own family, who enjoy stories about contrasts in culture, and readers who hope that the events of the past haven't written the story of tomorrow.

4.5 ⭐
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This story had so much unexpected depth that I really enjoyed. I was expecting a light, fun CRAZY RICH ASIANS-esque story, but this was on more serious scale than I expected. I sympathized with Lexa, straddling not being Taiwanese enough and not being American enough. She never had a real opportunity to understand her background, as an unfortunate event ensures that she never returns back to Taiwan and her estranged “other” family. Lexa isn’t the only one going through some tough life changes - it seems like everyone in both of her families are dealing with their own issues and it piled, and distracted a bit from Lexa’s story.
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This fell a bit short for me. The premise grabbed my attention but once I started reading it, the story felt really over the top and actually read more like a soap opera than fiction to me.  Sometimes that works if there's an element of humor or tongue-in-cheek feel to it but this just felt melodramatic.  Even the big reveal didn't hit the mark for me, I think I was expecting a lot worse given the amount of shame and secrecy that revolved around the secret.  I guess I just didn't relate.  The part I did relate to was how Lexa did not feel fully Taiwanese while in Taiwan and fully American/white in America.  Although I'm Korean-American, I know when I visited Korea in the 90s there was a feeling that Korean-American kids weren't REALLY Korean. And of course American kids always saw me as Asian and probably never considered that I'm an American as well.  Seeing that tension and pull in a book was awesome and I'm sure that representation really resounds with many readers out there.
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Lexa is half-Taiwanese but grew up in a family of blondes. When she was 8 she started visits with her Taiwanese father, until that summer when something happened that caused her to stop speaking to her Taiwanese family. 22 years later, her father dies and Lexa is faced with a choice: return to Taiwan and claim her inheritance or leave that part of her family in her past for good (and cause them to lose their homes in the process).

For the first half, the story is told between current moment and the story of Alexa’s childhood visits to Taiwan, starting 28 years ago. This creates an element of mystery and leaves you wondering what exactly happened “that summer” that led to Alexa and her father’s annual visits to stop and ended their relationship. This book has everything: it’s a story that shows how complex families can be, one where the main character is able to really find herself, it has a little romance, many delicious food descriptions, a lot of love, and ALL the drama. Like crazy soap opera levels of drama. This one had me hooked from the beginning and kept me engaged the whole way through because I truly had no idea what was coming.

Thanks to Berkley Publishing, NetGalley, and Let’s Talk Books Promo for the early copy in exchange for an honest review.
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