Monday, March 7, 2011

"I continue to sort out what's just my childhood, just my imagination, just my family, just the village, just the movies, just living."

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Leaving in public for someone to pick up—unless you want it.

The Woman Warrior is another book I’ve had on my to-read list for years. I finally picked it up last week. It was in immaculate condition until I took it on a trip to North Carolina. It came with me on a hike up Crowders Mountain in the rain. It is now a little rough around the edges, a little wavy in the pages. It is o.k. though; it just makes it look well-studied and loved.

I didn’t even read it on my trip, but I finished it the second I got home. The book has received a lot of praise and equal amounts of criticism. It was first published in the 70’s. It is now considered a classic in many circles. It is a memoir by Maxine Hong Kingston, but it is also multiple interconnected stories with different forms of truth. It is somewhat disorienting, which fits in perfect with how the author grew up, struggling to be a Chinese-American and an American-Chinese. Also, struggling to find her place as a woman.

I can understand where the criticism comes from. In the wrong hands, this book could reaffirm all sorts of bullshit for people who carry around anti-Chinese sentiments. I can also understand why the people who love it get frustrated with people who are unwilling to condone Kingston writing about her personal and real experience. The truth is that people who would use this book to further stereotypes are probably already heading down that road, with or without the book. The Woman Warrior does not describe every single person’s experience that came to the United States from China. It shouldn’t have to. It also describes a different China/United States than the ones that exists today so I hope that some of the people who have forgotten that might recant some of their grousing. Don’t get me wrong, it is still relevant. Racism and sexism have a tendency to linger on for ages, to evolve into new forms of the same old wicked shit that started it all off.

There is a part of the book where Kingston goes into great detail about bullying and tormenting another girl to the point that they are both in tears. It was so honest and wonderful--in that awful kind of way.

It might not have been the best book I have ever read, but it was interesting and unusual in its layout—which I appreciate. I am glad I finally got around to reading it. I haven’t really wrapped my mind around all of it quite yet, and I would be open to discussing it with someone if they have already read it or want this copy.


  1. Absolutely!
    -Dismantled Library

  2. I have really enjoyed catching up and reading your blog entries I missed. I am glad you went to Crowder Mountain. I hope the rain clouds did not block out the gorgeous view. Your niece is in town and would love to see you!

  3. I got to see her last night, but I am excited to see her and Annie again soon. I wish you were here too!