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Now THIS Is What a Real "Tiger Mom" Looks Like

By Katie Allison Granju |

Taloni Stuart Lee, A Real Tiger Mom Baring Her Claws For Her Cub

A few months ago, when Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” was just being released, immediately following her infamous “Are Chinese Moms Superior” essay in the Wall Street Journal, I weighed in here at Strollerderby on the media frenzy around the “Tiger Mom” topic.

In my blog post about Tiger Moms, I suggested that ultimately, if the toughest, most challenging parenting task that a mother faces is to relentlessly push her healthy, privately educated kids to try harder at the high-dollar violin lessons to which said mom has driven them in her Volvo, well, that’s a mom who doesn’t know what it REALLY means to do whatever it takes on behalf of her kids.  In fact, that’s an incredibly lucky, blessed mom who hasn’t ever really had to bare her Tiger Mom claws on behalf of her children’s well being.

But there ARE real Tiger Moms among us, and today, I’d like to introduce you to one of them. Her name is Taloni Stuart Lee, and she lives in my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Ms. Lee is African-American, and she lives in a part of our small, southern city that too many residents still consider the “bad” part of town (I also live in a neighborhood that many would consider undesirable, very near Ms. Lee’s)  Ms. Lee’s 17 year old son, a high school football star, was shot to death last August 10 while walking home from practice at his school.  This beautiful, talented, beloved teenage boy only had to walk one or two blocks to catch the city bus that would take him the rest of the way home after practice, but somewhere in that short distance, he was accosted by a murderer who remains at large. An off-duty nurse saw him lying in an alley, near death, and stopped to render aid until an ambulance arrived. He died during surgery at the hospital.

Many months later, the murder of Ms. Lee’s son remains unsolved, and she is unconvinced that the investigation has been pursued as vigorously as it would have been if the same terrible crime had taken in, say, an upscale subdivision in a “nicer” part of the city.  And so every single morning, Ms. Lee arrives outside the downtown Knoxville Police Department Headquarters, silently holding a sign in protest of the way her son’s murder has been handled. EVERY SINGLE DAY. When it’s cold, she’s there. When it’s wet, she’s there. And she has vowed to maintain this lonely vigil on behalf of her son for as long as necessary. And her efforts are not only on behalf of her own child, but also to advocate for all crime victims who happen to be residents of Knoxville’s  ”Eastside.”

So take a good look at Taloni Stuart Lee.  Read what she has to say, because it’s important. She may never be asked to publish an essay in the Wall Street Journal, but THIS is what a real, honest to God Tiger Mom looks like. This is motherhood, personified.

I am in absolute awe of Taloni Stuart Lee. She inspires me to be a better person, a better mother and a better advocate for those in my own community who need some Tiger Mothering on their behalf.



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About Katie Allison Granju


Katie Allison Granju

Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing. Katie also enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large Victorian house. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie Allison's latest posts →

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18 thoughts on “Now THIS Is What a Real "Tiger Mom" Looks Like

  1. Cath Young says:

    I salute this mom. What she is doing is truly taking the tiger mom to the extreme. I wish her the best of luck and my heart goes out to her.

    I don’t agree with your comparison’s with the Asian Tiger mom, however. The strength of those moms is the ability to keep to a discipline day in day out over many years, keeping their children on a certain track. Did I do this? No. Could I have done it? Doubt it. Not strong enough,motivated enough or disciplined enough and so it is with most of us. Couldn’t do it if we wanted to do it. Those mothers who do,however, enjoy a high rate of successful, well balanced kids with very low rates of the temporary mental illness that seems to hit our young adults, drug use, criminal activities, and getting into a number of issues. It is something to consider as so many parents are stuggling with such issues with their young adults. Most kids from such families become financially and operationally independent far earlier than other kids, and have very high life quality.

    I see many of these Asian families in NYC, living in abject poverty, yet their kids go to the best schools, are top students, stay out of trouble, do not become crime statistics (on either side) at rates that are astonishing. In one generation, this kids make quantum leaps in terms of quality of life. And then I see families who have been in the slums and slumps for generations. Who do you think has the best strategy in raising their children?

  2. GP says:

    I think the whole “Asian-Tiger-Mom-privileged” intro tarnishes the post. One shouldn’t need to denigrate one to highlight another…certainly not in this case.

  3. Claire R says:

    This is the type of Mama every kid deserves. I wish there were no need for this vigilance. I wish law enforcement valued our children as much as we do. I salute Ms. Lee and you for your unflagging efforts to achieve justice for your beloved sons. May nobody in Knoxville, or anywhere else, ever need to do this again.

  4. Jillian says:

    What in the world is going on in your town? Mothers have to protest to get their children’s murders investigated? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

  5. KDB says:

    I just want to agree with some of the other comments: I love that you’re highlighting this woman’s fierce fight for justice (and are a woman of fierce fight yourself), but your stereotyping and putting down the “other” type of Tiger Mother ruins the purity of what you’re saying.

  6. Pinkie Bling says:

    Wow. If I lived in Tennessee, I would go stand beside her. You too, Katie. This is so sad and WRONG.

  7. Julia says:

    Ugh. Enough with slamming a book you haven’t read. Honestly. Would you like her to slam your parenting decisions online based on an except from your blog? I bet that wouldn’t be hurtful at all.

    Shawni whose blog, 71 toes, you’re probably familiar with did a good write-up today on her thoughts on that book. You know, after she read it

    I applaud this mother, of course.

  8. hmbalison says:

    I could not agree with you more about what a real “tiger mom” is. Amy Chua got incredibly lucky, in my book. I’m a dedicated mom who did all the *right* things, but I didn’t get the *right* results. It’s easy when your kids do what you expect of them to take credit for it. Take reading. I was told over and over and over, read to your kids, read yourself and your kid will be a reader. Guess what? Not true. I could not have modeled reading as a fun thing more if I’d danced naked with books. I bought books, I read aloud, I read for my own pleasure tons and tons…and my daughter said to me, “Mom, reading to me is like doing outdoor chores.” She is NOT a reader. Now, my kids are adopted, but what I’m trying to say is that parents with kids that do what’s expected, who excel, who are organized and motivated…. parents often take too much credit for their parenting as a reason their kids are who they are….i.e. Tiger Mom. What is the reality is that kids are who they are and parenting often has almost NOTHING to do with it.

    So, your take that the mom with the child who was murdered…that to me is a real Tiger Mom. I totally agree.

  9. NJMama says:

    I absolutely agree with HMBALISON. Some things seem to be written in the stars a million miles away.

  10. geri a. says:

    Motherhood, personified, can take many forms and comparing and criticizing each other seems to have become the norm in American culture. We can be so full of self-doubt when it comes to our mothering abilities, and I believe that we often almost vilify other mothers whose methods are different than ours. We all do what we think is right, and hopefully our best (at least on most days, because noone is superhuman enough to do their best every single day). When I read stuff about other mothers who used a different approach to child rearing, and see that their children seem to have turned out fine, it makes me wonder if I did right by my children, particularly my son who was an addict and also died young (25). But I can see now, most of the time anyway, that I did my best, and what I truly believed would be the best for our son, even though the result was not what I had hoped for. Absolutely, every child is precious and every murder needs a full investigation, irrespective of where one lives, the color of one’s skin, what behavior the victim exhibited prior to the murder, etc. I totally admire and agree with Katie, Taloni and any other parent whose child died in such circumstances to want fight for justice. But I am, like a few other commenters, bothered by Katie and other commenters defining what does or doesn’t make a Tiger Mom. It sounds very similar to what does or doesn’t make someone a “good” mother, etc. The circumstances might be different, but the emotions are the same for the mother who is fighting for her child’s murderer to be brought to justice, or the mother who is fighting to raise her child in a manner she believes will be the best for them. Am I not a tiger mom, or didn’t love my child as much because my husband and I have chosen not to vigorously pursue finding out where he got the methadone that contributed to his overdose? I don’t believe I loved him any less, or feel any less pain than any other mother who has lost a child because I didn’t feel compelled to do that, needed to put my energy in a different direction. Again, we all do what we can and what we feel we should do, and hopefully can respect others whose choices may be different, without needing to make one path or choice right and another wrong.

  11. GP says:

    Yeah, way to absolve yourself and anyone else of doing any parenting, HMB…so why not just plop them in front of a TV with a bag of Doritos, then, or put them in childcare all day, if “almost NOTHING” we do matters? A little balance, please? I have nothing bad to say about the poor woman who lost her son, and its admirable what she is doing, but let’s not diminish the parenting we need to do while our kids are still alive, because that relationship is important. And, it’s not all about outcomes, either. I didn’t like to read much when I was a child, but I sure do now…but it’s the *love of learning* my parents implanted in me.

  12. Eileen says:

    I agree with the commenters who belive you should let go of putting down Chau. You tarnish your credibility and actually denigrate both mothers when you attempt to polarize them.

  13. Debbie says:

    Seems like people are missing the point Katie is trying to make. I bet if anyone asked Amy Chua, she would agree with Katie’s assessment of her life as a parent as lucky and blessed. And that problably she would agree that parents that are forced to fight for their children who are sick or victims of crime are facing a magnitude of a challenge incomprehensible to the rest of us.

  14. AmyLynn says:

    “that’s a mom who doesn’t know what it REALLY means to do whatever it takes on behalf of her kids. In fact, that’s an incredibly lucky, blessed mom who hasn’t ever really had to bare her Tiger Mom claws on behalf of her children’s well being.”

    That is so very well said I almost stood up and applauded.

    In my humble opinion this was CLARIFYING not adversarial.

  15. KoalaKat says:

    First off Kudos to Ms. Lee. I am sorry for her loss and applaud her efforts.

    However, I’m surprised that high profile parenting bloggers continue to bring up the “Tiger Mother” topic with scorn without having read Amy Chua’s memoir. Like myself, Chua was raised by poor (though well-educated) immigrant parents. I think this kind of upbringing instills a kind of toughness. I know it did for me. My mother spoke no English, and worked two tiring jobs, including a manual labor job at a factory where she was surrounded by toxic chemical fumes every day. Before we could afford to move into a middle class neighborhood, we lived in a gang-infested area. I wore thrift store clothes and had thrift store toys and struggled to fit in with the non-immigrant kids who had well-to-do parents, made fun of my clothes and weird food, and thought “ching chong ching chong” jokes were funny and harmless.

    Thanks to the dedication of my parents, I had a wonderful education at a top private university. My daughter will grow up never knowing what it is like to struggle financially because I am so fortunate. Sometimes I worry she will grow up spoiled, and I wonder what I can do to teach her the value of discipline and hard work. Chua faced the same dilemma, and she chose to make her kids play musical instruments, hoping the experience would teach them that hard work leads to mastery. You can argue that her efforts were misguided and overzealous, but if you say she doesn’t know anything about sacrifice because her parents taught her this by living the example. If you read the memoir (memoir, NOT parenting manual), you will better understand where she is coming from even if you don’t like how she raised her kids.

    Please, please, please do not continue to beat on the whole Tiger Mom issue without trying to understand it better. I fear such discussions can only lead to more misunderstanding, and fuel subtle racist sentiment.

  16. KoalaKat says:

    Sorry, typo: I mean’t to say “You CAN’T say Amy Chua doesn’t know anything about sacrifice because her parents taught her this by living the example.”

  17. Felecia Outsey-Pettway says:

    I feel I am at liberty to comment on this post because I personally know Taloni Stuart Lee and as matter of fact, I live in the community where Elizajuan was murdered. And I support her by volunteering at her Non Profit Organization “Eli’s Escape” and by protesting with her in East Knoxville as often as I can. She is not alone. I would like to warn all readers of these blogs to be careful how you interpret the writers words. When I first read Katie’s opinion about what a “Tiger Mom” personifies, I immediately agreed with her. When I think of this, I can imagine a mother tiger actually keeping their young from danger and harm as to prolong their life. Then when danger strikes they put their own lives on the line just to protect their child. Like Art this blog can be interpreted in many ways. But one should refrain from twisting the writer’s words. It didn’t appear to me that she was defining what tiger mom was. She never put down the Asian Mom, and never said that Mrs. Chua wasn’t a tiger mom. She simply gave another example of a Mother who is much like Mrs. Chua in many ways because she who sought out to do exactly what Mrs. Chua has done for her children. She was doing this for him before he died, know her focus is on doing this for our entire Community. Check her program out online at Eli’s Escape.Org. Taloni has gone to extremes to make sure that Elizajuan’s murder is solved and to prevent other young men and women from becoming victims of crime including the suspects. The only difference is that her son’s life was cut short despite her hard work and dedication to steer her son in the right direction. Please note that he was a senior in High school who was murdered on his way to the Bus Stop while coming from football practice. He was on his way to Ohio State after graduating, He co-hosted a Inspirational TV Show with his Mom who taught him how to speak Japanese and American Sign Language” so that he might be more marketable in the career world, he was an armor bearer at his church and well respected by all of his pears. The funny thing is that Taloni Stuart Lee did all of this for her son without relying on money to make it happen. He was a very respectful young man and God only knows why the three young men who conspired to end his life did so. In my opinion their Moms may not have been Tiger Moms like Taloni and Mrs. Chua. Taloni is God Fearing Woman who also had the same drive to steer her sons and many other children in the right direction. For those of you who are not personally acquainted with Taloni and actually went to the funeral of her son to witness the amount of lives he touched in such a short amount of time, you may never understand the degree of her loss after doing as much as Mrs. Chua to keep her child safe and to assure that he was on the right path to success. So now she is forced to “Bear her Claws.” God forbid that Mrs. Chua would have to do the same and I’m sure she would if it came down to it. Maybe if she had more money she could have lived in a different community where this type of thing seldom happens. Thats ridiculous. Like one reader commented it shouldn’t matter where you live the point is this murder case was not handled as speedy as it should have been due to witnesses not coming forth and KPD not responding quickly and effectively, This is what the Blog was about. Please stop taking this out of perspective. It is a shame that some of the commenters (GP) have indirectly implied that if Taloni had done as much as Mrs. Chua then her son might still be alive. I beg to differ. But how far would you go even after you’ve done all you could” Im Going to go a step further Taloni is not only a “Tiger Mom” she is a “God Fearing Mom.” Cause only someone who has a strong belief in God and the Son of God would feel empowered to challenge the death of her 1st born son.

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