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109 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2000
The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston, captures readers with her own interpretation of what it was like to grow up as a female Chinese American. As a little girl, she came to America with her family. Despite being in a new country, she had to deal with the old traditions from her homeland. Kingston hears different legends which she pieces together to create her woman warrior. It becomes her source of strength in a society that rejected both her sex as well as her race. The book, divided into five interwoven stories, is at times confusing as it jumps around. Nevertheless she does a great job explaining her life while growing up. The first story, called "No Name Woman," tells of her paternal aunt who bears a child out of wedlock and is harried by the villagers and by her family into drowning herself. The family now punishes this taboo-breaker by never speaking about her and by denying her name. However, Kingston breaks the family silence by writing about this rebel whom she calls "my forebear." The next story is called "White Tigers." It is a myth about a heroine named Fa Mu Lan, who fights in place of her father and saves her village. This story became the Disney movie, Mulan. "Sharman" is a story of Kingston's mother. It explores what it was like to study as a woman to become a doctor in China. "At the Western Palace" is about Kingston's aunt who comes to America and discovers that her husband has remarried in America. Finally, the last story, "A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe" is about Kingston's own experience in America when she first arrived. She explains what it was like to be a newcomer in a strange culture. Kingston constantly mentions that her friends and she are ghosts because they are American. All of the people who surround her family are ghosts, except for the Chinese people who live on the Gold Mountain, a section of Chinatown in San Francisco. Kingston feels like a ghost herself, " .... We had been born among ghosts, were taught by ghosts, and were ourselves ghost-like. The Americans call us a kind of ghosts" (p.183). The interpretation of what ghosts mean in this book is difficult to figure out. It could show how some people view a person from a different culture with ignorance as if she doesn't exist. Kingston's The Woman Warrior has some similarities with The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. First of all, both stories are written by Chinese American authors about their cultural heritage. Both novels deal with major concerns faced by Chinese American women. Living with their traditional culture in American society, Chinese-American women suffer problems of cultural conflicts. However, there are differences that make each work distinct. The Joy Luck Club is fiction and is not personal. It is also more likely to be read for pleasure. The Woman Warrior portrays a first hand view of the cultural differences between the United States and China. Also, Kingston succeeds in combining her emotions with her experiences. The Woman Warrior is a fascinating book. One of the most amazing aspects of this book is Kingston's ability to show how silence is a form of communication and how it shaped her being. Her mother tells her to be silent, yet she goes against her cultural standards by talking about her aunt. This act of will on Kingston's part offers the readers her ancestry. The expectation of silence can be simplified into a symbol of oppression. As a Korean-American, I felt the emotions and understood how Kingston felt for being a stranger to a new culture. Her internal struggle to fit into two different societies is difficult. I personally recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about the experience of one Chinese-American woman. It is not the definitive story of Chinese-American women's experience, but it is a very vivid and well-written account of one woman's life. Pg. 209. Published in the United States by Random House, Inc., New York
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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2000
This is a remarkably intelligent, personal account of success, failure, frustration, and identity. No, the writing and structure are not straightforward, and yes, some of the plotline may be disturbing. But this is ultimately an intellectually rewarding read, and a personally emotionally moving experience.
The anti-feminist backlash this novel seems to elicit (e.g., on this review page) should be testimony to how provocative it is, and how many assumptions it can challenge.
As for it being a misrepresentation of Chinese culture, well, it's a subjective account. It's the culture through Maxine's eyes (and her family's eyes); it is not meant to be an objective anthropological study. And I did not find it at all exoticizing. In fact, it's a shame that MHK often gets mentioned in the same sentence as Amy Tan -- beyond the superficial similarity of both being Asian-American women, they have little in common. MHK does none of the silly exoticization that AT does, and at least to me, does not engage in the "Asians must be rescued by Western culture" ideology of AT. This is ultimately a personal, autobiographical account, that is neither judgmental nor self-pitying.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2003
I didn't know beans about Chinese women when a friend put this book into my hands about 20+ years ago. Talk about a revelation. The Woman Warrior preceded Amy Tan's novels by at least a decade and went on to win several awards. It's about growing up Chinese American in California's Central Valley, working in the family laundry, and having to listen to her mother's stories that were designed to scare her into "good behavior." Some of these "talk stories" depicted women as fierce and strong warriors, while at the same time they were enslaved by their culture.
This memoir is intense, mystical, introspective, and full of marvelous and unexpected twists and turns. If you haven't yet read it, now's your chance.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2000
In the novel, The Woman Warrior, Kingston addresses several themes including the relationship of boys vs. girls in the Chinese culture, the process of naming, a warrior spirit within women, ghosts as representative of people, the symbolism of talk-stories, and the significance of a voice for speaking as well as writing. While Kingston explores these various themes, she also incorporates her own memoir and testimony. As a Chinese-American, she reveals the complex duality of an identity shaped by two cultures. As a woman, she reveals her fears and struggle to maintain her freedom, along with her desire to earn love from her Mother. As a writer, she reveals a voice she constantly silenced during her youth -- a voice which empowers not only her own identity through writing, but also acknowledges the identity and existence of an aunt who dared to be an individual.
Language provides Kingston an avenue into rebellion and strength and yet at the same time, through her language, she inevitably separates herself from her traditions and heritage. Throughout her memoir, Kingston struggles to assert her own identity and liberate her voice. "I shut my mouth, but I felt something alive tearing at my throat, bite by bite, from the inside" (200). This soreness within her throat grows with time along with the need to not only release her identity, but furthermore, to share this identity with her mother. "Maybe because I was the one with the tongue cut loose, I had grown inside me a list of over two hundred things that I had to tell my mother so that she would know the true things about me and to stop the pain in my throat" (197). Kingston needs her mother to help release the language inside her. By giving voice and language to these confessions she inevitably separates herself from her family and actualizes her individuality. To be released and to be separated from traditions become one and the same. Indeed, she learns to finds a place where ghosts cease to exist and where reality becomes a multitude of modern paraphernalia. "Be careful what you say. It comes true. It comes true. I had to leave home in order to see the world logically, logic the new way of seeing" (204). Kingston reminds readers of the power within language and the need to understand this same power. Within this understanding is the necessity to understand what we say and be careful with our words, lest they come true unintentionally. She urges women to fulfill the role of a woman warrior particularly through writing or speech, because if women do not search for strength within language then this language will most certainly be used against them.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2000
Maxine Hong Kingstons masterpiece, "The Woman Warrior..." is bursting with originality and personality. While some may question the validity of the book being a true non-fictional autobiography, the story is inspiring in any genre. Tell Story and Ghosts unite to present the reader with an interal stuggle between being American and Chinese, an honor or a disgrace to the family, confomity and individuality. As the author boldly satates, "I am a Female Avenger." This book is, however, full of important symbolism that can be easily missed in reading. I suggest paying close attention to colors, ghosts, and noting the importance of each tell-story.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 1999
The beauty of Warrior Woman is that Kingston does not pretend to lay it out exactely how it is because it is impossible to do so. What Kingston provides is her own representation of her cultural heritage and her own interpretation of what it was like for HER to grow up a female Chinese American. Each chapter is about a different warrior woman (except for one) because even though she struggled with her identity growing up, it was the warrior women surrounding her that she ultimately drew her strength from. This is a wonderfully written book that is at once angry and poetic. Kingston provides the reader with a look at one woman's interpretation of her cultural identity that does not pretend to be factual, (which is a truer rendering of life and identity).
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 1999
I read this book almost 20 years ago as an assigned text in a summer enrichment program during high school. Though I never re-read it, I still remember enough about it and the discussions our class had to respond to some of the reviewers.
I believe that reading the reviews gives you a pretty good idea of what life was like for Maxine- accepted neither by those who had seen China nor by those who were not of Chinese descent. Complete and utter disorientation- hence, the very nature of how the book was written. It was written exactly as it was in order to give the reader the actual experience of being disoriented at all times. At home in no culture and no time. Yes, the book is tough to get through. But that is the point.
The older I get the more I appreciate the struggles of others. It is not enough to understand our own lives- we must seek to understand the paths that led others into our lives, as well. I recommend this book highly to anyone with a mind open to understanding another person's life. Those who feel that only their own interpretation of reality is valid should not bother picking up the book.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 1999
I'm an 11th grader from City High School, in Iowa City, Iowa. I was assigned to read this book, by my US Lit teacher, for our minority lit unit. When I started reading this book, I didn't think I'd like it that much. The book starts right away with the talk stories, and constantly jumps from story to story. Although these stories are intersting, and give you a lot of background on the actient Chinese traditions, and ways of life, the way the stories are told, and the gruesomenss of the some of the stories, makes the book very hard to follow at times. Despite that, it is very interesting to read about the difference between the American and Chinese cultures,and the ways that they clash. Once you get through all of the talk stories, to the stories that actually have a plot, you see how the talk stories tie into their everyday life, even when they are trying to fit into our lifestyle, and the book becomes much more interesting, not to mention easier to read. This book is full of culture, and is a wonderful way to learn about how different ehtnic groups interact together. It's definately worth reading.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 1999
Although Maxine Hong Kingston does jump around from chapter to chapter (which seems to confuse most), she does a great job at explaining her life growing up as a Chinese-American. I can really relate to some of the aspects of the books. Kingston recalls constantly being filled with ridiculous stories. These stories, though, become a part of who she is and what she believes. The sub-title of the book, "Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts", explains a lot of what the author has to deal with. She has to deal with hearing that her friends and her are ghosts, because they are American. All of the people that surrounded Kingston's family were ghosts, except for the Chinese people who lived on the Gold Mountain, Chinatown in San Francisco. The children's teachers and coaches were ghosts. Kingston feels like a ghost herself: "...we had been born amonth ghosts, were taught by ghosts, and were ourselves ghost-like. They called us a kind of ghost."
This book is truely a page turner. There's always something to learn or laugh about in each turn. Wonderful book.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
:sigh: It is very sad to see how many of the reviews on this page are written without much thought put into them. I don't understand what the deal is with people not liking books which show the "bad" things in life and of Chinese Culture. It is books that disturb us and make us think that are truly great. I think that it's wonderful that a new light is brought to traditional Chinese culture and I'm sure Kingston's intentions were not to make the Chinese seem "evil" as many of the readers obviously believe. If you're at the level of reading of this book, then I'm sure you can understand that the books of this world are not all happy and joyful as we may want them to be.
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