The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston

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It is a book of ghosts, both past and present...all real.

The Woman Warrior is a memoir by Maxine Hong Kingston of growing up Chinese in Sacramento, California in the 1950’s. It is not nostalgic and forces the reader to enter a world that is both foreign and exotic. Kingston slips between reality and fantasy with incredible swiftness and we are left wondering at times just which world we are in.

Kingston tells us of her mother and her background in China before immigrating to New York and then making the trip to Sacramento where the family settled. We are given rare insight into the China we think we know, its myths, stories, and view of us as “white ghosts.” She details the struggle her mother made to achieve a status for herself in China and her relinquishing that to join her husband in the United States.

Kingston also reveals to us her own struggles to make a place for herself in this world. Born in New York and transplanted to California, she was definitely Chinese in outlook and upbringing. The stories she tells of aunts and cousins fill the book with attempts to find a place in this new world. Some did not make it and became truly ghosts in the mental hospitals. Others, like Kingston, made the transition but still long and cling to the stable world of their parents.

This is a book that needs thought and contemplation time when reading. The Woman Warrior will whisk you to China, back to the US, and into a fantasy world all within a few pages. However, it is worth the time and concentration to read and understand the conflicts that mean being a Chinese woman in America.

Review by Jewel

The Woman Warrior : Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts
By Maxine Hong Kingston
Published by Vintage Books USA
224 pages
ISBN: 0679721886

Review by Jewel

 

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