The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

Named the best nonfiction book of 1976 by the National Book Critics Circle and winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1978, Kingston’s “memoirs of a girlhood among ghosts” tells of the Chinese myths, family stories, and events of her childhood as Chinese-American girl living in California that have shaped her identity. The five short stories don’t always connect to another; in fact, “At the Western Palace” and “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe” are really the only two that do.

I’ve seen the themes covered in her memoir before — mother/daughter relations are difficult, merging cultures is difficult, trying to find your voice is difficult — but my professor tells me that this memoir was one of the first book by an Asian American writer to be taught in universities and accepted into American canon, so maybe others have just followed her lead.

The thing is that I’m not really thrilled about “creative nonfiction”. My favorite short stories would have to be “No Name Woman”, which deals with the erasing of Kingston’s aunt, and “At the Western Palace”, which covers her mother and aunt’s confrontation of her uncle who left Moon Orchid behind in China as he reinvented himself in America, but Kingston says that she created these events. The confrontation central to “At the Western Palace” was told to her by her sister, who heard it from the brother that was actually there. I know nonfiction isn’t always going to be correct, but I guess I like not knowing rather than knowing it was made up.

The memoir has it’s highs and lows, and I’m glad I read it. Yet, I’m not sure if I really liked it enough to say “yay” or “eh”. I think my response is somewhere in between the two.

Book Mentioned:

  • Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts. New York: Vintage, 1977. Print. 243 pgs. ISBN: 0394723929. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Vintage. Retrieved: April 09, 2010.
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