Lui's memoir demonstrates an undeniable mother–daughter bond that leaves readers with one overriding lesson: “[L]isten to...

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LISTEN TO THE SQUAWKING CHICKEN

WHEN MOTHER KNOWS BEST, WHAT'S A DAUGHTER TO DO? A MEMOIR (SORT OF)

Laineygossip.com blogger Lui strikes a discordant note with the title of her memoir, but readers will find an affectionate tribute to her tough, powerful Chinese mother.

When the author was young, an unnaturally loud voice earned “Ma” the sobriquet Squawking Chicken. It’s an “all-out assault…sharp, edged and quick,” writes Lui, who felt the sting of her mother’s tongue many times. After her parents divorced when she was 7, the author spent the school year in Toronto with her low-key father and vacations in Hong Kong with her demanding mother. Ma’s child-rearing techniques included telling ghost stories that warned against behavior that brings bad luck, using feng shui edicts to control decisions and strict rules of comportment. Readers may laugh at the embarrassing-moments-with-Mom stories and also squirm at Ma’s verbal cruelty. In contrast to a permissive, childcentric parenting style so pervasive in Western culture, Ma abhorred praise as a motivator and discouraged unrealistic aspirations. Bragging and rebellion were met with public derision, and shaming and demeaning were the preferred forms of punishment. Though open affection was rare, her love was indisputable. Ma’s harsh ways reflected a determination to spare Lui the hardships she had to endure. At 15, she quit school and went to work at a restaurant to support her siblings while her unemployed parents “slept off all-night mah-jong sessions.” Then, while walking home after work, she was raped. With no sympathy from her parents, she voiced her shame, anger and frustration by screaming all night. That was the birth of Squawking Chicken. Thereafter, she used her voice to protect herself and others. For all her in-your-face tough love, baffling and amusing rules, and opinions about people and situations, Ma has been, more often than not, uncannily right-on.

Lui's memoir demonstrates an undeniable mother–daughter bond that leaves readers with one overriding lesson: “[L]isten to your mother.”

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16679-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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