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China Men Paperback – April 23, 1989

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here's a storyteller's tale of what they endured in a strange new land.

About the Author

Maxine Hong Kingston is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who operated a gambling house in the 1940s, when Maxine was born, and then a laundry where Kingston and her brothers and sisters toiled long hours. Kingston graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1962 from the University of California at Berkeley, and, in the same year, married actor Earll Kingston, whom she had met in an English course. The couple has one son, Joseph, who was born in 1963. They were active in antiwar activities in Berkeley, but in 1967 the Kingstons headed for Japan to escape the increasing violence and drugs of the antiwar movement. They settled instead in Hawai‘i, where Kingston took various teaching posts. They returned to California seventeen years later, and Kingston resumed teaching writing at the University of California, Berkeley.

While in Hawai‘i, Kingston wrote her first two books. The Woman Warrior, her first book, was published in 1976 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award, making her a literary celebrity at age thirty-six. Her second book, China Men, earned the National Book Award. Still today, both books are widely taught in literature and other classes. Kingston has earned additional awards, including the PEN West Award for Fiction for Tripmaster Monkey, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and the National Humanities Medal, which was conferred by President Clinton, as well as the title “Living Treasure of Hawai‘i” bestowed by a Honolulu Buddhist church. Her most recent books include a collection of essays, Hawaii One Summer, and latest novel, The Fifth Book of Peace. Kingston is currently Senior Lecturer Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (April 23, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723288
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you want to learn about a great, five-thousand-years-old culture of the east meeting the west, China Men is definitely the right book for you. Maxine Hong Kingston has skillfully woven an epic of Chinese history in America in the most creative way. From the early Chinese immigration to the present day, the Chinese's dream, experience, suffering, and success in America is wonderfully told through many generations. Unlike many historical novels, this book is told from the Chinese perspective right down to the details from character to character. This book is written so impressively eloquent and truth to the bones that I dare say a native Chinese might not even know as much about his/her own culture. From Alaska to Hawaii, Kingston has covered every corner of the U.S. that Chinese immigrants have gone. The characters also added a little Chinese wisdom now and then in a day when working on the railroad or fighting in the Vietnam War.
Aside from extremely in-depth in history and Chinese culture, the stories are especially fun to read. I can only describe them as totally fantastic, bizarre, and unbelievable.Do you know the Chinese had found a place called"Land of Women" ? There was also communist Uncle Bun who suspected the U.S. government was plotting to poison him by collecting garbage from every door and hiding them in his food. Yes, these interesting stories have significant meaning related to the actual history. Not all of them are funny though; there are also stories that are terrifyingly shocking such as the inhuman tortures the Japanese did to Chinese and the bias laws America had toward Chinese. There are also side stories and fairy tales of all kinds from Chinese ghost stories to a lesson by Li Fu-yen which added a savor to the book.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John Hartnett on February 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
In China Men, Kingston took me on a ride all over the literary landscape. In general, I thought her book was an interesting tossed salad of memoir, fable, reporting, and poetry. As a reader, it reminded me of a scrapbook of family stories, newspaper articles, heritage legends -- all assembled in one place.
Interestingly, Kingston begins the book with two distinctive chapters. Unlike the rest of the book, these two chapters are relatively homogenous, sticking with one form, voice, structure and tone throughout. The first chapter is the fable of the Land of Women. I didn?t understand this chapter until the last sentences, when it seemed as though Kingston was saying that coming to North America emasculated the Chinese men who made the journey to the Gold Mountain.
If Kingston?s main theme is that the journey to North America emasculated the Chinese Men, then from a reader?s perspective I?m not sure if the book delivers on this promise. To put a fable with a very obvious moral at the beginning of the book seems to me to set up a contract with the reader about the subject or theme of the book. Although, Kingston explores many different aspects of the Chinese experience in North America, and even starts to explore the ways that China Men were oppressed, I?m not sure she completely proves her case in my mind. I could be wrong, however.
Interestingly, the second chapter of the book is another short one, this time a nearly pure piece of memoir. Alone, this chapter seems to set up the author?s own relationship with Chinese men. By mistaking another man for her father, she seems to be saying from the beginning of the book that from her perspective Chinese men are nearly interchangeable. But interestingly, she isn?t the only one who makes the mistake.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
After reading Kingston's "The Woman Warrior," I thought I'd read "China Men." I am not disapointed at all. "China Men" is an excellent biographical work that recounts the lives of Chinese men in America from the 1840s to the Vietnam War. Although Kingston uses as much Chinese myth in this book as she does in "The Woman Warrior," she apparently decided to keep the mythology and biography more separated. Even so, Kingston's stories and the way in which she recounts them is absolutely splendid.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lin Lac on November 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
The China Men by Maxine Hong Kingston was a very interesting book. It contains stories of Chinese men traveling to America in the 1800's and working on the transcontinental railroads, in Sierra Nevada. The author shares a lot of details in the stories about her family traveling to America. She retold the story from a male's perspective of what hardships they've been through to get to America, in search for the Golden Mountains. A rich country that they about which is full of riches. As they reach to America what they thought was the Golden Mountains was just a land of hard labor and low paying jobs. Some of them regretted coming to America, but they couldn't go back to their country because they had no money.
Some part of the story made me feel like I could relate my family to the characters that Kingston has written about. My family immigrated to the United States in 1984. Like the characters in Kingston's book they heard about the Golden Mountains that's why they came to America. All they found was low paying jobs which are similar to the characters in Kingston's book. Is this really what they thought of as the Golden Mountains? It was for sure not what they had thought of. Like many Chinese family my parents thought that the Golden Mountain was really a place to find gold, but all they found was their own blood, sweat, and tears that they shed of all the hard work that they did.
This book is also very educating because in one of the chapters, Kingston listed a list of laws that were set against Chinese in the 1800's. It gives the reader more information of what the Chinese immigrants had went through to come to America and to work for the country. Overall, this book is very good and very detailed. I strongly recommended this book, if you're interested in learning more about the experiences of Chinese men traveling to America and their stories. This is also one of the best book that I've read.
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