Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui

Listen-to-the-squawking-chickenI think that absolutely everyone who picks up Listen to the Squawking Chicken is going to do so because it is by Elaine Lui aka Lainey Gossip. And I suppose that’s an ok reason to pick it up, but the reality is, this book deserves much more credit than that. It is a humorous and thought provoking memoir about Lui’s relationship with her mother that is filled with insight about both Chinese and Canadian cultures.

Just so there is no misunderstanding, the Squawking Chicken is Lui’s mother. She means no disrespect in calling her mother this and she is not the only one that does so. She is brash, loud and unapologetic. Throughout Lui’s life she has dispensed advice to her daughter that sounds rather harsh to my mild Canadian ears. Lui, however, takes the time to explain the world in which her mother grew up and where the advice comes from. With that in mind, the advice takes on the sheen of wisdom.

Lui’s book does two things really well. The first is that it illuminates Chinese parenting culture and the ways in which it misfits and conflicts with typical Canadian culture. Lui is a very Canadian individual. Her mother is a very Chinese woman. Lui, by trying to understand her mother in fact educates the readers on these two very different cultures. And I should emphasize that Lui has some pretty startling revelations about both cultures – Canadian and Chinese.

The second thing Lui does really well is reflect on the ways in which mothers will always influence their children. You can’t escape it, so you may as well embrace it. My relationship with my WASPy mother has absolutely no similarities with Lui’s relationship with her mother, aside from the fact that our mothers made us who we are today. That is what mothers do whether we like it or not. They are there for us when we need them and when we don’t.

Who would like this book? Of course the publishers have timed the release of this book perfectly to coincide with the build up to Mother’s Day. But I would argue that the book moves beyond the mother-daughter relationship to make it an important read for anyone interested in learning about Chinese culture or how cultures come together in multiculturalism.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest and fair review.


  1. This book seems to be doing well, and your review helps me to know exactly what it is all about. It’s interesting to read the differences between cultures, but especially when they are within the same family.

  2. I like Lui as a personality and as a book reviewer, so I was curious how she’d do at writing her own book. She’s always come across as an astute observer, so I’m glad to read that her book is full on insights, not stereotypes. All cultures have different ways of parenting and I always find it interesting to read about the things we share in common and the things that are vastly different. All I know is that the parents of my Chinese friends here in Canada, one set of whom is disappointed because their daughter is “just a doctor” (she didn’t specialize), would be devastated having me as their slacker, arsty daughter who teaches teaches people to shimmy for a living 🙂 – Tania

  3. When Lainey announced she was working on a book I almost died. I was SO excited. I’ve been following her snarky academic take on gossip for years. Like most of her followers, I assumed her book would be about gossip, maybe expanding on her TED Talk (have you watched it? So great). I finally got my hands on the book and it was so much better than I thought. I LOVED getting to know the Squawking Chicken. She is a true original and a wonderful role model. She takes no sh*t – which is clearly where Lainey gets it. I learned so much and promptly handed the book over to my colleague who devoured it as well. I might have an excuse to read it a second time – my book club picked it as our next read!

  4. Pingback: Cover Wars – Listen to the Squawking Chicken | 52 books or bust

  5. Pingback: Reading Diversely – A Top Ten List | 52 books or bust

  6. Pingback: A Selection of Great Blog Posts April 2014 | Consumed by Ink

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s