Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: Listen to the Squawking Chicken

Listen to the Squawking Chicken

When Mother Knows Best, What's a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of)
Elaine Lui

Life lessons from Elaine "Lainey Gossip" Lui's mother, the Chinese Squawking Chicken, as Elaine lovingly calls her. A wonderful mother-daughter memoir full of seemingly radical parenting advice that got results!

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." Using Chinese fortune telling, feng shui blackmail, good old-fashioned ghost stories, and shame and embarrassment in equal measure, Elaine's fiercely loving mother (the Chinese Squawking Chicken, as Elaine calls her) raised her to be an intelligent, high-achieving, devoted and grateful daughter. 

In Listen to the Squawking Chicken, Elaine's mother's lessons are recounted in 9 chapters in which the Squawking Chicken teaches 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.

For anyone who's ever had a mother, or been raised by a parent, Listen to the Squawking Chicken is a loving mother-daughter memoir that will have readers laughing out loud, gasping in shock, and re-considering modern parenting tactics.

Kat's Review

You may not know this, but I check out Lainey Gossip at least once a day. It's a habit I started while on maternity leave with my first son, as a bit of an escape. I'm not actually much of a celebrity gossip person, and I don't care what's going on in their lives. I read Lainey's site because she's smart and offers a different take on celebrity culture than the usual. 

When I heard she was writing a book, I found it odd that she was writing one about her mother, since Lainey herself is the celebrity, not her mom. After reading the book, the subject matter makes perfect sense. In fact, it would have been too easy to just write a behind the scenes gossip book. Instead, the author is providing us with a glimpse into her life, via the person who has had the most influence over it. 

Elaine Lui is a good storyteller, and she knows exactly which angle to take and which details to emphasize when trying to get her point across. There were times I laughed out loud, and other times I was shaking my head in disbelief. The relationship she has with her mother can't be summed up easily; it's at once beautiful, dependent, strained, loving, selfish, selfless, and strong. I can't say that I understand every tactic her mother used to get what she wanted, but I can say that Elaine Lui is well aware of her mother's strengths and weaknesses, and presents both in her storytelling. 

This isn't a how to book, or a strict memoir, or even an attempt at justifying the relationship she has with her mother, but instead it's almost a tribute to the woman who both gave to her daughter and took away so much over the years. It's full of personal stories, many involving the author herself, but in many ways it's a glimpse into the psyche of her mom as viewed through the daughter's eyes.

Kat's Rating: All-Consuming

I read this book almost in one sitting. It's fairly long, but it's a quick read. I could relate to some parts of the book, while other experiences were completely foreign to me. This is a must read for Lainey Gossip fans, but also a great read for anyone interested in a glimpse into a unique personality and her even more fascinating mother. 

I received a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley and Random House Canada in return for an honest review.

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