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MonkeyNotes-The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
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Background Information

MAXINE HONG KINGSTON

Maxine Hong Kingston was born in Stockton, California in
1940 as Maxine Ting Hong. She was the eldest child of six
children. As a young girl, she was often confused about her dual
American and Chinese heritage. But attending public school in
California, she became very Americanized. After graduation
from high school, she attended the University of California at
Berkeley and received a Bachelor's degree in 1962. In 1965, she
earned her teaching certificate.

Kingston is the most popular Asian-American writer living
today. Her work is studied in Ethnic studies courses, women's
studies courses, and American Literature courses. Her book of
memoirs, The Woman Warrior, won the National Book Critics
Award for the best book of nonfiction in 1976. Kingston also
wrote a book on Chinese male immigrants to the United States,
called China Men. She regards it as a companion piece to The
Woman Warrior. The purpose of China Men is to show how
much Chinese Americans have contributed to the national
heritage of the United States, as they built the railroads, farmed
the wastelands, and faced some of the worst discrimination in
the country's history.

Maxine Hong Kingston continues to live and write in
California. She is married to Earl Kingston and has one son.

Table of Contents



LITERARY/HISTORICAL INFORMATION

To call The Woman Warrior, a non-fiction book, is rather
misleading, for Kingston experiments with mixing many
different forms in her memoirs: autobiography, fiction, history,
and folk tales. It is crucial that readers recognize the mix of
genres in The Woman Warrior. Kingston reveals that she
receives her information about her Chinese heritage from her
closed-mouthed mother, who tells the truth with fiction,
weaving myth, fable, folklore, and reality together in a form of
story telling Kingston calls "talk-story." In the "talk-story," the
reality of the story is less important than the lesson drawn from
it. Kingston does not attempt to convey her Chinese heritage in
an authoritative way. On the contrary, she frequently calls
attention to the gaps in her knowledge and the fact that she is
reconstructing her history from snippets of conversations that
she has overheard, and from the reading that she has done.

The book can be difficult to read because Kingston so often
breaks the rules of the genre that she is using. For instance,
while telling what seems like a factual story of her mother's
education in China, Kingston breaks off into a long discussion
of the history of ghosts in China. The expectation that history
and ghost-lore are quite distinct is broken. The reader needs to
suspend disbelief and go with the flow of the interwoven fact
and fiction. Realizing that a single person's reality is often a
mixture of the imagination, the creative memory, and the reality
of the actual experience.

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