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Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of) Hardcover – April 22, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (April 22, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399166793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399166792
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2014: "You look like dried monkey flakes." Canadian TV personality and blog gossip gal Elaine Lui doesn't ease us into her mother's bold personality. "The Squawking Chicken," as her Hong Kong-born mother is known, is loud, opinionated, and fearless -- characteristics Lui celebrates in all their cringe-worthy glory, and for which she provides context through her mother's history. That upbringing was one of hardships and perseverance, informing a unique philosophy that she instilled in her daughter. At first (to Westerners, at least), this mother/daughter relationship may seem jarring, unbelievable. But in a book that ultimately acts as both a personal memoir and her mother's fascinating biography, Lui confidently peels back the layers to reveal that there is, in fact, a beautiful bond borne of tradition, sacrifices, pain, and, above all, love. --Robin A. Rothman


“I devoured this book in one sitting...alternately cheering, laughing, cringing, and gasping in horror.  Lui captures the complexity of a mother-daughter relationship that is both complicated and beautiful. Poignant with a bare honesty that may make you think (and rethink) your own relationships.” —Jenny Lawson, #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

I’m an avid reader of Elaine Lui’s blog because of her intelligent, funny and distinctive voice. So of course, her memoir was a must-read. By turns hilarious and moving, it tells the story of her charismatic mother – her difficult childhood in Hong Kong, immigration to Canada and tiger-mom style of raising her daughter Lainey to be the outspoken success she is today. Along the way we learn a lot about Mah Jong and Feng Shui (two of her mother’s obsessions), but most of all about the intense love between mother and daughter. I was spellbound from start to finish! —Jennifer Ross,
Listen to the Squawking Chicken is authentic, heartbreaking, and funny. Lui writes with the truest form of humor, grounded in pain, honesty, and insight, and despite everything, Lui’s love for her mother shines true. This is a book that will challenge and resonate with mothers and daughters everywhere.”—Jean Kwok, New York Times–bestselling author of Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown
“Elaine Lui has written one remarkable and dangerous book. It had me laughing till I rolled off the bed, rearranging my living room furniture in a panic at three a.m. to achieve proper feng shui, and calling my mother out of pure guilt. The Squawking Chicken could eat any Tiger Mom for lunch.” —Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians
“Readers will find an affectionate tribute to her tough, powerful Chinese mother… Lui's memoir demonstrates an undeniable mother–daughter bond that leaves readers with one overriding lesson: ‘[L]isten to your mother.’” —Kirkus Reviews
“A sparkling new memoir…hilarious.” —Bookpage 
“Bold and fresh, Elaine Lui’s writing took me on a journey filled with bittersweet verve and breathtaking grace. Forget what you think you know about life, and enter the world of the Squawking Chicken. This is a love story you won’t soon forget.”  —Ami McKay, author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure
“What an incredible character is the Squawking Chicken—she’s a movie, an Amy Tan novel, and a sitcom all rolled into one. By turns deeply moving, shocking, and hilarious, this is a story of atypical parenting, cultural complexities, and one daughter’s capacity for forgiveness, compassion, and love. I didn’t want it to end.” —Lisa Gabriele, author of SECRET and TV producer
“Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I read it compulsively, wide-eyed, and devouring: Lui’s writing is sharp, humorous, and deliciously readable, like a long, insightful letter from your best friend. Listen to the Squawking Chicken asks you to reflect on what you think about loyalty, shame, pride and love—themes that all mothers and daughters know deeply.  This book made me rethink what it means to be a daughter. I loved it. I can't wait to give it to my mother.” —Sarah Seleky, author of This Cake Is for the Party

A peek inside the book...

If the world operated on mute, my ma would seem to you like any other Chinese lady -- on the short side of average, small-boned, but obnoxiously dressed. Think rhinestones everywhere, and if not rhinestones then sequins, and if not sequins then feathers. Sometimes all of it at the same time. Her favourite outfit is a denim suit, with rhinestone encrusted patches on the back and up and down the leg. She purposefully wears it with the collar turned up. Like the irresistibly catchy hook in the worst song you’ve ever heard, she finishes her China Woman Elvis ensemble off with a pair of gold and silver Coach runners. If I’m really lucky that day, it’ll be sunny out when we go for dimsum. And she’ll keep her shades on as she walks into the restaurant, her entire head hidden underneath one of those massive sun visors regularly seen on Asians. People will wonder: is it a movie star or a bag lady who’s pillaged a donations bin in Vegas? The face that appears when she finally removes the sunglasses and the hat is so pretty it’s almost ornamental. In other words, by appearance only, ma seems harmless.    
            Turn up the volume and everything changes. As soon as you hear her, you’ll never forget her. It’s the voice, a voice that earned her the nickname “Tsiahng Gai”, Squawking Chicken, when she was growing up in Hong Kong. The volume is jarring, yes. You can’t imagine that something so loud can come out so effortlessly, and without warning. The Squawking Chicken doesn’t give you time to acclimate to her levels. It’s one level, and it’s all-out assault. But it’s also the tone -- sharp, edged, and quick, not so much a booming roar that leaves silence after it lands but a wailing siren that invades your mind, kind of like acid on the brain that results in permanent scarring. 

Customer Reviews

I shines with love and compassion.
I've read some of the other negative posts here but I LOVED the book.
D. Martin
If you are a fan of reading in general, you will like this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By vox libris TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It isn't easy being a mother. And it isn't easy having a mother, especially if you're a daughter.

Therein lies a conflict as old as time itself.

For Elaine Lui, the difficulty is compounded by having a mother who, on the surface, exhibits little maternal warmth, understanding, or support. Lui's mother, aka The Squawking Chicken (a nickname so given because once Lui's mother started speaking up for herself, she never stopped), is one of those tough love parents who does not think her job description includes succor or platitudes. Rather, The Squawking Chicken wants you to learn your life lessons the hard way.

She sure did.

As Lui relates her life as The Squawking Chicken's daughter, she does so by framing it within her mother's life. The Squawking Chicken was raped as a teenager, received no respect from her husband during the first half of their marriage, and was forced to return to Hong Kong after a divorce, in spite of having moved to Canada and being settled there. And these are just a few of the trials she had to withstand. With each challenge overcome, The Squawking Chicken learns and remembers. So when Elaine comes along, her mother is determined that she, too, learn life lessons, beginning with this one: life is just not fair.

Some of the stories here are heartbreaking, and none of them are heartwarming. But that's the point. When Lui accuses her mother of abandoning her when The Squawking Chicken goes to Hong Kong, her mother doesn't so much defend herself - she is not the sort to really care - as she sets Elaine straight. "You think you know everything," The Squawking Chicken seems to say. "You know nothing." Lui is a woman, after all, who is expected to call her mother on HER birthday, as well as her mother's.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Elaine Lui is a Canadian Entertainment Journalist who writes the gossip blog "Lainey Gossip". This memoir is about her relationship with her mother, aka the "Squawking Chicken" (a nickname that she's had since she was a teenager). Lainey explains in the book's introduction that she wrote the book to honour her mother and to acknowledge how every success that she's had in her life stems from her mother's devotion to her. While I believe she means this, what comes across instead is that her mother has manipulated, controlled, criticized and dominated her life. It makes for uncomfortable reading.

According to Wikipedia, "traumatic bonding" is defined as "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other." I don't doubt that Lainey loves her mother deeply. Nor do I doubt that her mother acts in ways that she thinks are the best for Lainey. However it doesn't feel like a healthy relationship.

Some examples. Throughout her life, Lainey's mother has stressed to her daughter how beauty is not a worthwhile thing to aspire to or admire in another. What counts are your abilities and how hard you work. Fine. But then why does she constantly tell her daughter how pretty SHE was and how she could have been Miss Hong Kong? Why tell your daughter that unlike her beautiful mother, she has a stocky body and thick legs? If you want to emphasise that looks don't matter, don't also boast about how much more attractive you were.

Another example. The Squawking Chicken tells Lainey that it is her duty to be forever grateful to her mother for giving her the gift of life.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Just Me on April 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to admit that I was waiting anxiously for this book. As an avid reader of Lainey's blog, I'm a big fan of her witty, honest and take-no-prisoners writing. Plus I love her tips on Feng Shui, so I was biased to like it...unfortunately, I'm not sure I did. The book is part biography, part homage to her mother, part a compilation of lesson-teaching parables (a sort of Aesop's fables, as told by Lainey's mother, the Squawking Chicken), part an exploration of her Chinese culture, part thesis on what it means to be an immigrant and "other" in a Western culture, but it's not "fully" any of those things. When I found myself at the end of the book, I had to look back to make sure I hadn't skipped any chapters or that my kindle hadn't jumped ahead. She has great ideas, great stories to tell, great insights, but it seems like she never fully develops any. The book feels unfinished, rushed....or three different books, condense into one short one.

One thing that cannot be faulted is the writing, she has an amazing command of the language, and is a wonderfully descriptive writer that takes you right into the action and emotion with her, although she perhaps alienates a lot her readers by using copious - unnecessary - swear words.

Perhaps it's condensed because Elaine's not being 100% honest with us. She leaves out a lot of important details and stories out. Her relationship with her dad, who seems like the person who stuck by her all those years, is glossed over. A lot of pages are given to the relationships that were wrong, but almost none to the relationship that went RIGHT (perhaps because her mother had nothing to do with the ones that went right?), like the one with her current husband.
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