As the 800,000+ U.S. fans of Elaine Lui’s site know, her mother, aka The Squawking Chicken, is a huge factor in Elaine’s life. She pulls no punches, especially with her only child. “Where’s my money?” she asks every time she sees Elaine. “You’ll never be Miss Hong Kong,” she informed her daughter when she was a girl. Listen to the Squawking Chicken lays bare the playbook of unusual advice, warnings, and unwavering love that has guided Elaine throughout her life. Using the nine principles that her mother used to raise her, Elaine tells us the story of the Squawking Chicken’s life—in which she walked an unusual path to parent with tough love, humor, and, through it all, a mother’s unyielding devotion to her daughter. This is a love letter to mothers everywhere.
I’m an avid reader of Elaine Lui’s blog because of her intelligent, funny and distinctive voice. So of course, her memoir was a must-read. By turns hilarious and moving, it tells the story of her charismatic mother – her difficult childhood in Hong Kong, immigration to Canada and tiger-mom style of raising her daughter Lainey to be the outspoken success she is today. Along the way we learn a lot about Mah Jong and Feng Shui (two of her mother’s obsessions), but most of all about the intense love between mother and daughter. I was spellbound from start to finish! —Jennifer Ross, People.com
“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
“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 three 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
“Readers will find an affectionate tribute to her tough, powerful Chinese mother… Lui’s memoir demonstrates an undeniable mother–daughter bond that leaves readers with one overriding lesson: ‘[L]isten to your mother.’” —Kirkus Reviews
“A sparkling new memoir…hilarious.” —Bookpage
“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
“What an incredible character is the Squawking Chicken—she’s a movie, an Amy Tan novel, and a sitcom all rolled into one. 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 SECRET and TV producer
“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 rethink what it means to be a daughter. I loved it. I can’t wait to give it to my mother.” —Sarah Seleky, author of This Cake Is for the Party
A peek inside the book…
If the world operated on mute, my ma would seem to you like any other Chinese lady — on the short side of average, small-boned, but obnoxiously dressed. Think rhinestones everywhere, and if not rhinestones then sequins, and if not sequins then feathers. Sometimes all of it at the same time. Her favourite outfit is a denim suit, with rhinestone encrusted patches on the back and up and down the leg. She purposefully wears it with the collar turned up. Like the irresistibly catchy hook in the worst song you’ve ever heard, she finishes her China Woman Elvis ensemble off with a pair of gold and silver Coach runners. If I’m really lucky that day, it’ll be sunny out when we go for dimsum. And she’ll keep her shades on as she walks into the restaurant, her entire head hidden underneath one of those massive sun visors regularly seen on Asians. People will wonder: is it a movie star or a bag lady who’s pillaged a donations bin in Vegas? The face that appears when she finally removes the sunglasses and the hat is so pretty it’s almost ornamental. In other words, by appearance only, ma seems harmless.
Turn up the volume and everything changes. As soon as you hear her, you’ll never forget her. It’s the voice, a voice that earned her the nickname “Tsiahng Gai”, Squawking Chicken, when she was growing up in Hong Kong. The volume is jarring, yes. You can’t imagine that something so loud can come out so effortlessly, and without warning. The Squawking Chicken doesn’t give you time to acclimate to her levels. It’s one level, and it’s all-out assault. But it’s also the tone — sharp, edged, and quick, not so much a booming roar that leaves silence after it lands but a wailing siren that invades your mind, kind of like acid on the brain that results in permanent scarring.