Listen To The Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's A Daughter To Do? A Memoir (sort Of)

Hardcover | April 1, 2014

byElaine Lui

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Most people think I’m exaggerating at first when I talk about the Chinese Squawking Chicken. But once they actually spend some time with her, they understand. They get it. Right away. She’s Chinese, she squawks like a chicken, she is totally nuts, and I am totally dependent on her.

When Elaine Lui was growing up, her mother told her, “Why do you need to prepare for the good things that happen? They’re good. They won’t hurt you. My job is to prepare you for the hard times, and teach you how to avoid them, whenever possible.” Neither traditionally Eastern nor conventionally Western, the Squawking Chicken raised her daughter drawing on Chinese fortune-telling, feng shui blackmail, good old-fashioned ghost stories, and shame and embarrassment in equal measure. And despite years of chafing against her mother’s parenting style, Elaine came to recognize the hidden wisdom—and immeasurable value—in her rather unorthodox upbringing.

Listen to the Squawking Chicken lays bare the playbook of unusual advice and warnings used to teach Elaine about hard work (“Miss Hong Kong is a whore”), humility (“I should have given birth to a piece of barbecue pork”), love and friendship, family loyalty (“Where’s my money?”), style and deportment (“Don’t be low classy”), finding one’s own voice (“Walk like an elephant, squawk like a chicken”) among other essentials. Along the way, Elaine poignantly reveals how her mother earned the nickname “Tsiahng Gai” or “squawking chicken” growing up in Hong Kong, enduring and rising from the ashes of her own hard times.

Listen to the Squawking Chicken is a loving mother-daughter memoir that will have readers laughing out loud, gasping in shock, and reconsidering the honesty and guts it takes to be a parent.

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From the Publisher

Most people think I’m exaggerating at first when I talk about the Chinese Squawking Chicken. But once they actually spend some time with her, they understand. They get it. Right away. She’s Chinese, she squawks like a chicken, she is totally nuts, and I am totally dependent on her.When Elaine Lui was growing up, her mother told her, “Why do you need to prepare for the good things that happen? They...

ELAINE LUI is a celebrity gossip blogger and the voice behind LaineyGossip, a leading international celebrity news source followed by more than 1.5 million people internationally. Her TEDx Talk, “The Sociology of Gossip,” is about the critical place of gossip within modern pop culture. Elaine has been a reporter on CTV's daily entertainment show, Etalk, since 2006, is now a co-host on CTV's daily talk show, The Socia...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9.27 × 5.96 × 0.99 inPublished:April 1, 2014Publisher:Random House Of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345813472

ISBN - 13:9780345813473

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Easy, quick read. Enjoyble Thi book was fun to read and was very anecdotal. The Squawking Chicken is quite the interesting character.
Date published: 2015-06-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read Canadian spin on Amy Tan's books of Asian culture growing up in America Light, fun, sincere, and honest recounting of Elaine Lui's mother's past, present and future. As the title indicates: "Listen to the Squawking Chicken"!
Date published: 2015-02-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Awesone read! Just goes to show, Mother always knows best even if it dosent sound the best at the moment! great read :)
Date published: 2015-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 'A Great Read' I really enjoyed this book - it's one of those 'I couldn't put it down' books. Full of Chinese superstition, sun signs and a loving relationship( but I had better agree also) between mother and daughter. The book had me laughing out loud.
Date published: 2014-11-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Easy read - but just ok If you've been following Lainey's blog forever, like I was, you'll find this an easy and enjoyable read. It is at times touching and other times funny. All that said, I'm not sure that it will have a wider appeal and if you don't already have a connection to Lui's blog and writing, you may not get one through this book.
Date published: 2014-04-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Easy read - but just ok A very interesting read. Elaine showed us how a woman does the best she can for her child with the knowledge she has. Her explanation of traditions is paramount to understanding where her mother's discipline stems from.
Date published: 2014-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW Amazing story about a tough relationship. Thanks for sharing.
Date published: 2014-04-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Light and enjoyable I read Lainey's website all the time. This book really shows her writing voice, and of course her relationship with her mother. It covers a number of humerous teaching moments through her life and lot of her mom's motivation behind them.
Date published: 2014-04-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from LISTEN to the Squawking Chicken Elaine Lui of fame describes the life, lessons and wisdom of the Squawking Chicken, also known as her mother. At once funny and poignant, it is an interesting set of tales that might even put a Tiger Mom to shame. With insights that suggest one's wrinkled clothing shows "a lack of self-respect so why should anyone else respect you", it's hard to counter argue the Squawking Chicken. As a longtime fan of Elaine's popular gossip blog, the biggest surprise for me was that the book is not nearly as well written as her blog and as such, I was disappointed stylistically. So read for the stories but sadly don't expect good writing.
Date published: 2014-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A one sit read. Well written. Deep, humorous, and thought provoking all in one. And for any laineygossip follower there is no disappointment.
Date published: 2014-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Funny, emotional, entertaining... Loved this book, a must read. I learnt so much about the Chinese culture and how love for a mother and a daughter perseveres the challenges life can bring. I could not put it down once I started the book.
Date published: 2014-04-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tears and giggles I laughed, I cried, I was annoyed....a fun read that makes you think about your own family dynamics. You can envision Ma in all her forms and see your own Ma in some of them too. We'll worth the read.
Date published: 2014-04-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Do listen to the squawking for your own good If this book was supposed to be incredibly funny, the humour was lost on me. Sure, "Listen to the Squawking Chicken" did elicit some smiles and chuckles, but I would hardly characterize it as "laughing till I rolled off the bed" as author Kevin Kwan describes it. Catherine Gildiner also says she "learned more about Chinese culture from this book" than her time in Hong Kong. It's misleading because while there are commonalities to the traditions and superstitions of the general Chinese culture, Elaine Lui's experiences with her mother are probably on the extreme and intense side of things. Unless, I'm being told my experiences with my mother and aunts are on the tamer side? Now on to why I love the book... "Listen to the Squawking Chicken" is much more insightful and personal than I expected it to be. Lui writes very candidly about growing up with a tiger mother, a squawking chicken, whatever the moniker. The nickname "Squawking Chicken" was overused - I get it, her mother squawks a lot. My mum would squawk at me too if I disrespected her by calling her by her name or nickname. This brings me to the point of how it is engrained in most Chinese families to not air your dirty laundry in public, or never disrespect and criticize your parents, especially not for the world to hear, so it is refreshing to see this level of openness and clarity from Lui. There are the bad times she unabashedly shares, and she honestly critiques her mother's shortcomings, with which the filial piety drilled in me squirms at. There is also the acknowledgement and expression of her gratitude towards her mother and for the upbringing she has had - if not for the way her Ma is, she would never be who she is today, which by the measures of society, is an enviable, successful life. "Listen to the Squawking Chicken" therefore reminded me of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," the other half of the story from an Chinese daughter's perspective. They share overlapping themes of mother-daughter relationships, culture, and identity. In my review of "Battle Hymn," I mention how it isn't a parenting book but one that shares a personal experience. Similarly, "Listen to the Squawking Chicken" isn't a how-to guide on dealing with an overbearing Asian mother, nor is it an all-encompassing book on Chinese culture. The fengshui and superstitious parts were a good read, but it is Elaine Lui's anecdotal history which she writes in her voice and with her heart that makes it clear how strong her mother's and her character is. You can't silence a squawking chicken no matter how hard you try, and why would you, if the best of interest is at heart? Mother knows best, and even if she doesn't, let her think that she does.
Date published: 2014-04-01

Extra Content

Bookclub Guide

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 take shape?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 Chicken?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 disappointment alone? 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 lofty?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 daughter?14. What did you think about the book ending with the Squawking Chicken’s voice via her text messages to Elaine?