Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of)

Title:  Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of)
Author:  Elaine Lui
Publication Information:  Amy Einhorn Books / Putnam. 2014. 288 pages.
ISBN:  0399166793 / 978-0399166792

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "Such is the power of my mother's storytelling. For me it has been greater than reason, stronger than doubt, more enduring than fact. The moral messages embedded in Ma's stories form the foundation of my life code and standard of conduct."

Elaine Lui is a first generation Canadian-Chinese. Her Chinese mother is the "Squawking Chicken." This book is a collection of nine essays that paint a picture of Elaine's relationship with her mother and a picture of her mother's life.

Each of the essays has a similar feel. Each essay is a string of anecdotes that result in advice her mother gives Elaine. The anecdotes are sometimes funny and sometimes indicative of cultural differences in parenting approach. Each essay is the repeated emphasis on the idea of filial piety. "Filial Piety is a lifelong requirement. It is every child's duty to respect the parent, to support the parent, and to bring pride and honor to the parent." Each essay is the idea that over the years, despite some of her eccentricities, Elaine's mother has given her good advice.

The similarities in each of essays give the book a sometimes one-note tone. It was like re-reading the same ideas in each essay. I enjoyed the individual essays, and could see myself reading one in a  magazine. Each individual one is descriptive and well written. A book of them was a little too much.

My other reaction is that at the end of 300 pages, I am still left wondering how Elaine feels about her mother. I am unsure of the emotional relationship between the two. The book goes back and forth between the statement that mother's advice is right and descriptions of some of the strict parenting that went on (and goes on) during Elaine's life - incidents to which the reaction could be negative. Filial piety exists, but what else?

The other thing I am left wondering is what her mother's reaction is to this book. The tone of the book is not always complimentary, and many private details are revealed. How does this book fit in with the idea of Filial Piety since it is putting private family ideas out for public consumption?

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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