1. Elaine tells us that Chinese women are taught to be humble
and meek-not exactly the Squawking Chicken's approach. How do you
think Elaine has come to reconcile her mother's demeanor with her
own? Where in the book did you begin to see Elaine's individuality
2. Elaine's mother told her: "'If you can tell the story of the
worst thing that has ever happened to you, you'll never be
silenced.'" Do you agree? How do you think people are burdened or
liberated by their past?
3. From the absence of bedtime stories to the Squawking
Chicken's frank day-to-day advice, Elaine writes about her mother's
belief that a parent's role is to provide a crash course in
real-world preparation. How does your experience as a parent or
child differ from what we see in Listen to the Squawking
4. The notion of filial piety appears throughout Listen to
the Squawking Chicken, and eventually we learn that Elaine and
Jacek-who have decided against hatching a brood-won't be reaping
the returns of an obedient child. What's your take on filial piety?
Have your parents expected this of you and, if applicable, will you
expect it of your children in turn?
5. Elaine discusses the challenge of bridging her ethnic culture
with her Canadian identity. "Ma shamed me so that I would not
suppress the Chinese part of myself to try to become something I
could never be." Shame is often used to repress unwanted thoughts
and actions, but the Squawking Chicken uses shame to hone Elaine's
self-confidence. Do you think shame is a useful tool to do so? How
did or didn't it work for Elaine?
6. The Squawking Chicken wasn't shy about buying Elaine's first
bra. When Elaine expressed some embarrassment, she said: "'Your
body, this natural. What you need, bra, this natural. . . . If you
shame your body, you shame yourself. When you shame yourself,
everyone shame you.'" How are girls and women taught to perceive
their developing bodies? Is this changing?
7. Feng Shui is a constant force in Elaine's life-in romance,
house-hunting, and career choices. Were you surprised by the way
Feng Shui has influenced Elaine's personal life? Do you use
anything similar in your own? Discuss.
8. When the Squawking Chicken's relationship with her second
husband come to an end, Elaine said her mother felt disappointment
because "She'd let herself be disappointed. She'd let
herself trust a person who only let her down. And, once again, that
disappointment was a result of her powerlessness." How accountable
can an individual be for another's actions? Do you tend to shoulder
9. The Squawking Chicken doesn't believe in lauding another
person's good looks. ("So what pretty?") Do compliments on physical
appearance have value? Discuss.
10. Do you believe, as the Squawking Chicken does, that a person
needs only one true friend? Have you deliberately limited the
number of people you call close friends?
11. Elaine identifies her mother's lack of empathy as one reason
she struggles to make and maintain friendships, which often
manifests itself in her strict assessment of "Low Classy" people.
To what standards do you hold your own friends? Do you think the
Squawking Chicken's expectations are, as Elaine believes, too
12. The Squawking Chicken isn't afraid to share her material
successes with others. When Elaine confronts her mother about
showing off her new house to friends, the Squawking Chicken
replies: "'Your daddy work hard. Your daddy buy a big house. Be
proud of your daddy!'" Is there a line between pride and
boastfulness? Where do you draw it?
13. How do you think the Squawking Chicken has felt about having
this book written about her life with her daughter, by her
14. What did you think about the book ending with the Squawking
Chicken's voice via her text messages to Elaine?