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Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Apr 1 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Canada; 1st edition (April 1 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345813472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345813473
  • Product Dimensions: 15.1 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 422 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #69,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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
“What an incredible character is the Squawking Chicken—she’s a movie, an Amy Tan novel, and a sitcom all rolled into one. Fans of Elaine Lui’s website, LaineyGossip.com, have long wondered where that smart, exacting, hilarious, opinionated, and highly moral (though never moralistic) voice came from. Lui answers this question herself with her beautifully written and fiercely funny book, giving all the credit to her mother, the indomitable Squawking Chicken. 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 the SECRET trilogy and The Almost Archer Sisters
“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 3:00 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
“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 reconsider what it means to be a daughter. I loved it. I can’t wait to give it to my mother.”
—Sarah Selecky, author of This Cake Is for the Party
“At first glance, Elaine Lui may seem like the perfect Tiger Daughter. But she’s so much more. She writes about her beloved Squawking Chicken with both clarity and compassion—not only as a mother, but as a whole person, vexing, loving, guarded, open, and one of the most fascinating characters you’ll encounter in memoir.”
—Johanna Schneller, Columnist, The Globe and Mail
“I learned more about Chinese culture from this book…than I did all the time I was in Hong Kong and all I have read about it. If you have ever puzzled over feng shui, or any other ancient practice that has made it into modern Chinese culture, you will get a cogent explanation here. The Squawking Chicken is not by a long shot a perfect mother, yet she is a totally memorable character. The beauty of the book is the daughter’s unconditional love for her mother, which by the end of the book, the reader shares.”
—Catherine Gildiner, author of Too Close to the Falls and After the Falls
“When I fell in love with The Glass Castle it struck me with some satisfaction that Jeanette Walls, a gossip columnist, after all those years of writing about the biggest narcissists in town had such a profound story to tell about herself. Elaine ‘Lainey’ Lui’s Listen to the Squawking Chicken is a very different mother-daughter memoir, but, to me, just as fascinating, written in its own kind of snappy poetry, with an abundance of love and economy of language that could make it an instant pop culture classic. Now never mention Jessica Alba or Justin Timberlake ever again.”
—Emma Forrest, author of Your Voice in My Head

“Wise and funny and poignant, Listen to the Squawking Chicken is an unflinching look at the enduring bond between mother and daughter. I read this book in one sitting, fascinated by Elaine Lui’s stories of her mother—and most of all, by the ‘Squawking Chicken’ herself. Every woman can identify with the experiences of a daughter who grew up feeling awed and inspired by a mother who loves her daughter enough to reveal both the harsh truth and the unexpected magic in life. . . . I am so jealous that I cannot sit down with Lainey’s mom and have tea, get my ass kicked at mah-jong, and get some advice about how to better attract luck as a ‘Dragon.’ I want a Squawking Chicken of my own!”
—Beth Kendrick, author of The Week Before the Wedding
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

“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

About the Author

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 Social, and previously worked for Covenant House Vancouver. Born in Toronto, she lived in Vancouver for thirteen years, before returning to Toronto.

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Format: Hardcover
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, criticised 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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a longtime reader of Lainey's blog. I was excited to read this book based on the smattering of colourful stories that Lainey has told about her mother over the years. The book itself is a fast, fun read. It is very lucidly written, and the poignant stories of the Squawking Chicken's life and the evolution of their mother-daughter relationship are told with an easy wit and self-effacing honesty.

If I have one criticism of the book it's that Lainey does seem to give off a bit of a Stockholm Syndrome-y vibe when it comes to justifying her mother's behaviour. Lainey extensively rationalizes the Squawking Chicken's humiliating remarks, excessive meddling, demands for money, over-the-top displays of wealth and control, imposition of superstitious beliefs, and black-or-white, condemning attitude towards normal human flaws. Lainey's mother obviously suffers from a severe personality disorder (my best guess would be Borderline Personality Disorder, she sounds like a textbook "Borderline Queen"; a good book to read on the subject is Understanding the Borderline Mother by Christine Ann Lawson).

Lainey knows her mother's behaviour is abnormal, but is either unwilling or clueless to attribute it to anything other than an unfortunate upbringing paired with east/west cultural differences. In fact, Lainey appears quite adamant that her mother's unique parenting style is superior in many ways. There is no doubt that Lainey is a very successful individual, and it would stand to reason that parenting would play a large role in that; however, my gut feeling after reading this book is that there are probably a whole host of undiscovered and unresolved issues buried in her brain by her admittedly workaholic ways. To answer the question, "What's a daughter to do?", I would say, probably go to therapy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I did not like it. I kept reading to the end story to glean one jewel of wisdom. All I did was feel sorry for the child and felt contempt for the mother. You do not have to teach your child by shame and guilt.
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The book is written with a sense of humor over a very serious controlling mother.
There are some very funny parts but the bottom line is the remarkable amount of guilt that a person can feel from a dominant source in ones life. It's an enjoyable read although I carries on with many repetitive behaviours.
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Format: Hardcover
Having read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, and strongly identifying with the Chinese mother stereotype with my own mother and upbringing, I find myself wishing at times, while reading this memoir by Elaine Lui, that I had some of the influences of the Squawking Chicken mother :)) Her brand of pragmatism and wisdom seemed to have been borne more out of her life's experience, much of which was harsh and devastating, and her teaching methods allegorical rather than the straight-up book of rules in the style of the Tiger Mom. And this book is the daughter reflecting on her understanding and also gratitude of her Squawking Chicken style of upbringing, so it feels much more 'wholesome' to me in a complete circle kind of way.

I will also say that I love Elaine Lui's writing and storytelling. She seemed to tell it like it is (like her mother), or was, with good natured humour, but there was a kind of bittersweetness underneath that I realized, as I finished the book, was a daughter's tender tribute to her fierce, loving mother.
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