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“A classic, for a reason” – Celeste Ng via Twitter
In her award-winning book The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston created an entirely new form—an exhilarating blend of autobiography and mythology, of world and self, of hot rage and cool analysis. First published in 1976, it has become a classic in its innovative portrayal of multiple and intersecting identities—immigrant, female, Chinese, American.
As a girl, Kingston lives in two confounding worlds: the California to which her parents have immigrated and the China of her mother’s “talk stories.” The fierce and wily women warriors of her mother’s tales clash jarringly with the harsh reality of female oppression out of which they come. Kingston’s sense of self emerges in the mystifying gaps in these stories, which she learns to fill with stories of her own. A warrior of words, she forges fractured myths and memories into an incandescent whole, achieving a new understanding of her family’s past and her own present.
With an introduction by Xiaolu Guo
A classic memoir set during the Chinese revolution of the 1940s and inspired by folklore, providing a unique insight into the life of an immigrant in America.
When we Chinese girls listened to the adults talking-story, we learned that we failed if we grew up to be but wives or slaves. We could be heroines, swordswomen.
Throughout her childhood, Maxine Hong Kingston listened to her mother's mesmerizing tales of a China where girls are worthless, tradition is exalted and only a strong, wily woman can scratch her way upwards. Growing up in a changing America, surrounded by Chinese myth and memory, this is her story of two cultures and one trenchant, lyrical journey into womanhood.
Complex and beautiful, angry and adoring, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior is a seminal piece of writing about emigration and identity. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976 and is widely hailed as a feminist classic.
In these eleven thought-provoking pieces, acclaimed writer and feminist Maxine Hong Kingston tells stories of Hawai’i filled with both personal experience and wider perspective.
From a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and numerous other honors, the essays in this collection provide readers with a generous sampling of Kingston’s exquisite angle of vision, her balanced and clear-sighted prose, and her stunning insight that awakens one to a wealth of knowledge.
Kingston’s swift, effortlessly flowing verse lines feel instantly natural in this fresh approach to the art of memoir, as she circles from present to past and back, from lunch with a writer friend to the funeral of a Vietnam veteran, from her long marriage (“can’t divorce until we get it right. / Love, that is. Get love right”) to her arrest at a peace march in Washington, where she and her "sisters" protested the Iraq war in the George W. Bush years. Kingston embraces Thoreau’s notion of a “broad margin,” hoping to expand her vista: “I’m standing on top of a hill; / I can see everywhichway— / the long way that I came, and the few / places I have yet to go. Treat / my whole life as if it were a day.”
On her journeys as writer, peace activist, teacher, and mother, Kingston revisits her most beloved characters: she learns the final fate of her Woman Warrior, and she takes her Tripmaster Monkey, a hip Chinese American, on a journey through China, where he has never been—a trip that becomes a beautiful meditation on the country then and now, on a culture where rice farmers still work in the age-old way, even as a new era is dawning. “All over China,” she writes, “and places where Chinese are, populations / are on the move, going home. That home / where Mother and Father are buried. Doors / between heaven and earth open wide.”
Such is the spirit of this wonderful book—a sense of doors opening wide onto an American life of great purpose and joy, and the tonic wisdom of a writer we have come to cherish.