I 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.