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The Woman Warrior

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A Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity.


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A Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity.

30 review for The Woman Warrior

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    This was an intense book full of both women's power and violence against women set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution and the emigration of many Chinese people fleeing Mao to California. It is a mixture of autobiography and folklore and is beautifully written. Maxine Hong Kingston received the National Book Award for this book in 1977 and remains a feminist activist. The book itself talks of the China of her parents (she was born in the US after her father emigrated in 1940) using th This was an intense book full of both women's power and violence against women set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution and the emigration of many Chinese people fleeing Mao to California. It is a mixture of autobiography and folklore and is beautifully written. Maxine Hong Kingston received the National Book Award for this book in 1977 and remains a feminist activist. The book itself talks of the China of her parents (she was born in the US after her father emigrated in 1940) using the voice of her mother and herself as well as a mystical woman warrior. It is highly poetic at times such as when Maxine's grandmother (still in China) sends her sweet tastes telepathically, "How large the world must be to make my grandmother only a taste by the time she reaches me." p.99 The concept of identity pervades this work as Maxine's family is essentially country-less - the family in China is nearly wiped out by the revolution and their remaining property ceded to distant uncles that are still there and they fell isolated in the US surrounded by "ghosts" as they describe the white people around them. "I could not understand 'I'. The Chinese 'I' has seven strokes, intricacies. How could the American 'I', assuredly wearing a hat like the Chinese, have only three strokes, the middle so straight?" p. 166 My favorite part was the second chapter "White Tigers" where she describes a great woman warrior is trained in combat from the age of 7 to 22 by two old peasants and goes on to lead a peasant army. It is highly inspirational to see such a strong female character. And when this is contrasted to the "No Name Woman" in chapter 1, one can understand why strong female role models and fables were so important to Maxine's self-esteem and sense of self-worth. I have visited China many times, but primarily the metropolises and my contacts with Chinese people have not been very deep. I was reminded of this by the scene in the last chapter "A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe" where Maxine is unable to get a word out of another girl who pretends to be mute except when she is reciting texts in class. I suppose that the cumulated suffering destroys one's voice as one feels powerless that even speech is too difficult. I did have one encounter years ago when I had dinner in Taiwan with a Chinese colleague whose family had fled with Chang Kai-Shek to Taiwan following Mao's victory in the Chinese Civil War. He tearfully described to me how his parents who were university professors had destroyed their fingers and backs digging trenches bare-handed during the Cultural Revolution. It was the rare moment when a Chinese person opened up to me about his suffering. And yet, that also bears some ambiguity because as bad was the Cultural Revolution was, before that, Mao had banned foot-binding (described several times in The Woman Warrior): "Nobody wrote to tell us that Mao himself had been matched to an older girl when he was a child and that he was freeing women from prisons, where they had been put for refusing the businessmen their parents had picked as husbands. Nobody told us that the Revolution (the Liberation) was against girl slavery and girl infanticide (a village-wide party if it's a boy). Girls would no longer have to kill themselves rathe than get married. May the Communists light up the house on a girl's birthday." p. 191. So as everything in history, there are great ambiguities surrounding Mao. This reminds me of the condemnation of Castro for his imprisoning of land-owners and homosexuals (all true) but the relative ignorance of the improvements in education and medicine (the best teams of doctors in any international crisis are bound to have a Cuban or more in them.) Such is life I suppose. The Warrior Woman is a provocative and challenging voyage into Maxine Hong Kingston's life and dreams as a Chinese woman and remains a great piece of literature 40 years later.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    ''I inspired my army, and I fed them. At night I sang to them glorious songs that came out of the sky and into my head. When I opened my mouth, the songs poured out and were loud enough for the whole encampment to hear, my army stretched out for a mile.'' A young girl lives among ghosts, standing at the crossroads. Her mother is a formidable woman, a doctor and a shaman, who tries to communicate with her children through the myths of their homeland. But the child is confused, she doesn't know ''I inspired my army, and I fed them. At night I sang to them glorious songs that came out of the sky and into my head. When I opened my mouth, the songs poured out and were loud enough for the whole encampment to hear, my army stretched out for a mile.'' A young girl lives among ghosts, standing at the crossroads. Her mother is a formidable woman, a doctor and a shaman, who tries to communicate with her children through the myths of their homeland. But the child is confused, she doesn't know where she belongs, if she belongs at all. Chinese traditions seem to teach and suffocate her at the same time and the American way does not speak to her heart. Tradition isn't always the answer and change is necessary. And the mother uses myths as a warning and reminder of a past that is now lost. But the young girl has questions. Why is that a woman is always the one to blame? Why can't she love and live in peace? Why must we always be the victims of prejudices and regimes? Why is a woman warrior obliged to disguise herself as a man to protect her life? Do we not have the right to defend ourselves and decide our future? In many parts of the world, the answer is still a firm ''NO''. ''I've found some places in this country that are ghost-free.'' In a superbly beautiful memoir, Kingston presents a community whose memories have disappeared. Families are broken, husbands abandon their wives, children are at a loss and everyone becomes ''people one read about in a book.'' Assimilation seems impossible in a land that is faced with the Second World War and then, tries hard to recover. Kingston brilliantly blends Chinese folklore with autobiographical episodes and doesn't shy away from demonstrating her own cruelty as a teenager who was confused, enraged and exhausted by the rules, the codes, the lack of communication and the pressure of following in her mother's footsteps. The only refuge is ''talking-story''. In stories, in imagination and in creating distance between her and her family lies the chance for independence. Divided into five episodes, Kingston's memoir is a deeply personal commentary on womanhood, culture, folklore and the struggle of breaking free from what keeps you chained and gagged. No Name Woman : In one of the most haunting, terrifying chapters I've ever read, Kingston narrates the story of her aunt, the woman without a name, the sinner who must be forgotten, who never existed. White Tigers : Kingston gives voice to the legendary heroine Fa Mu Lan whose presence permeates the memoir, walking side-by-side with the countless ghosts. Shaman : The writer takes us back to her mother's youth, her decision to follow her inclination and become a doctor. However, her most important gift is the ability to stand up to ghosts and exorcise them... At the Western Palace : In an episode that is both tender and bitter, the mother's sister arrives in the USA to confront her husband. There is an elegant sense of humor at the beginning of the chapter that becomes darker and darker until the shocking end. A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe : The writer goes back to her teenage years, her awful days at schools, her rage that led to unacceptable behaviour towards a classmate, the presence of witches and hags in the community. I was astonished by the candour and vehement rage of this chapter. If you choose to read one memoir in your life, let this be the one. ''Always hungry, always needing, she would have to beg food from other ghosts, snatch and steal it from those whose living descendants give them gifts. She would have to fight the ghosts massed at the crossroads for the buns a few thoughtful citizens leave to decoy her away from village and home so that the ancestral spirits could feast unharassed. [...] My aunt remains forever hungry. Goods are not distributed evenly among the dead.'' ''We're all under the same sky and walk the same earth; we're alive together during the same moment.'' *I would like to dedicate this review to my amazing colleague and dear friend, Eva, who is always full of bookish surprises and glorious ideas!! Thank you for everything!* My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Reading Road Trip 2020 Current location: California The Beatles broke up the year before I was born, but two of their first albums still provided the soundtrack of my early childhood. Both my mom and big sister loved their early stuff, songs like “Please Mr. Postman” and “All My Loving.” They were played frequently in our living room. I hated those songs. Back then, I didn't think The Beatles were one bit better than my mother's other favorites: Tammy Wynette and Hank Williams, Jr. (Only arsenic or Reading Road Trip 2020 Current location: California The Beatles broke up the year before I was born, but two of their first albums still provided the soundtrack of my early childhood. Both my mom and big sister loved their early stuff, songs like “Please Mr. Postman” and “All My Loving.” They were played frequently in our living room. I hated those songs. Back then, I didn't think The Beatles were one bit better than my mother's other favorites: Tammy Wynette and Hank Williams, Jr. (Only arsenic or whiskey could stop that pain, and I didn't have either). Then, one day, as I was approaching adolescence, my sister, who shared a wall with me, put on a song that made me stop everything I was doing. It was like I couldn't even function, like I'd never heard anything better in all my life. I knocked on my sister's door and demanded to know, “What was that??” The answer: “The Beatles. Hey Jude.” My sister had just purchased “The Beatles 1967-1970” also known as “The Blue Album.” If you're old enough to remember, there were two records inside and they were both actually blue. I became obsessed with that music, and I would wait patiently for my sister to go to work so I could sneak into her room to play it over and over again (I can't wait until my sister shows up to read this particular review). This album represented a huge shift for me, both in how I related to music and what I demanded of it, from that day on. I guess you could say I experienced a Revolution. I experienced another one this week, when I cracked open The Woman Warrior. Thus began my Magical Mystery Tour. I could cry with joy over what this book is. Self-help? Hell, no! A memoir? Well, no, not really, despite the subtitle. No, folks, this is a “talk-story.” A “talk-story,” and it's unlike anything I've ever encountered before. This “memoir” took me Across the Universe. It's like literary LSD. I literally started this book one night in the bath, and, two hours later I realized I was sitting in cold water, and every member of my family had given up on me and gone to bed. I walked out of the bathroom into total darkness, wondering what century it was. I can't believe it. Maxine Hong Kingston's the Chinese-American Lady Madonna, y'all. There is a Chinese word for the female I--which is “slave.” Break the women with their own tongues!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A five-part genre-bending work considering immigration, class, and Chinese-American identity, The Woman Warrior sketches a nuanced portrait of the artist as a young woman. Mixing together myth and memoir, fantasy and fact, Kingston reflects on her childhood, the lives of her mother and aunts, and her awakening as a writer. All five parts share common themes, from the cultural gap between Chinese immigrants and their children to the debilitating effects of American racism. The author writes preci A five-part genre-bending work considering immigration, class, and Chinese-American identity, The Woman Warrior sketches a nuanced portrait of the artist as a young woman. Mixing together myth and memoir, fantasy and fact, Kingston reflects on her childhood, the lives of her mother and aunts, and her awakening as a writer. All five parts share common themes, from the cultural gap between Chinese immigrants and their children to the debilitating effects of American racism. The author writes precise, cool prose, and laces her work with caustic wit; the book reads as an engaging meditation on Chinese-American girlhood and womanhood, as well as an exploration of what it means to cope with ongoing trauma and gendered terror through storytelling. Kingston experiments with perspective and representation in inventive ways, and her debut rewards deliberate reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    “You must not tell anyone, what I am about to tell you.” So begins Maxine Hong Kingston: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. Books with family secrets intrigue me and I remained engaged in Kingston's mix of myth, memoir and perspectives on growing up and the immigrant experience throughout. The chapters mixing the narrator's story, along with her desire to reclaim family/identity, with myth were my favorite (especially "White Tigers"). Kingston writes with poignancy and beauty “You must not tell anyone, what I am about to tell you.” So begins Maxine Hong Kingston: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. Books with family secrets intrigue me and I remained engaged in Kingston's mix of myth, memoir and perspectives on growing up and the immigrant experience throughout. The chapters mixing the narrator's story, along with her desire to reclaim family/identity, with myth were my favorite (especially "White Tigers"). Kingston writes with poignancy and beauty and there are layers of meaning in her prose. Story-telling is also a priority here, along with the corresponding family dynamics and emphasis on cultural values (and how they're passed on). “Those of us in the first American generations have had to figure out how the invisible world the emigrants built around our childhoods fits in solid America.” I had considered my favorite Kingston book to be Tripmaster Monkey, but might have to read the latter book again. 4.5 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dream

    Probably most intriguing about the structure of Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, beginning with "No Name Woman” and ending in A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe,” is that it characterizes Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir, told in the interesting format of non-sequential episodes, as one that begins in oppressed silence but ends in universal song. When looking at the three woman warrior figures in the book – her aunt, the No Name Woman; the rewritten legendary warrior in “White Tigers” (based upo Probably most intriguing about the structure of Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, beginning with "No Name Woman” and ending in A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe,” is that it characterizes Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir, told in the interesting format of non-sequential episodes, as one that begins in oppressed silence but ends in universal song. When looking at the three woman warrior figures in the book – her aunt, the No Name Woman; the rewritten legendary warrior in “White Tigers” (based upon the Mulan legend); and the poet and barbarian captive, Ts’ai Yen – the characteristics that unite them all are their determined attempts at asserting their own kinds of power, femininity, and individuality in patriarchal Chinese society. The methods through which they do so revolve around words written, spoken, or not spoken: from the silence practiced by No Name Woman, to the words written on the warrior’s back, to the songs created by Ts’ai Yen and, finally, to the stories that Kingston as the author uses to find the marks of the woman warrior within herself, and to do so in a way that allows the readers insight into a life that even the narrator is grappling to understand. The words that open Woman Warrior, which begins with the story of No Name Woman, are quite interestingly an admonition of silence: “’You must not tell anyone,’ my mother said, ‘what I am about to tell you’” (3). This admonition signifies a promise, and a breaking of a promise: The narrator’s mother Brave Orchid is showing courage and confidence in her daughter by sharing something that should not be remembered, yet at the same time, her mother is breaking the silence surrounding her sister-in-law, the titled No Name Woman. This is one of the first of many of the narrator’s mother’s talk-stories, ones that were told with a purpose to aid her children in life events, while sealing the bond between child and mother. The story of the woman warrior, who is the protagonist of “White Tigers,” is created in history and then transformed by the narrator into one of triumph through the breaking of silences. Inspired by Kingston’s childhood and the stories of Yue Fei and Mulan, the chapter becomes another way for the narrator to celebrate the breaking of silences, something that continues throughout the book. This union between mother and daughter the novel can be seen as the compromise of generations, an idea carried out in Kingston’s appropriation of myths and stories seen in the retelling of these woman warriors. Her mother, in fact, is the narrator’s guide of the methods in which to appropriate talk-stories for her own purposes. Kingston’s retellings are part of the idea that a culture growing up in one country can appropriate the lessons of their parents, who grew up in another. It is the idea and the hope that stories created by a patriarchal culture can still make room for its daughters, ultimately one the most important ideas Kingston communicates in her beautifully rendered book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nicole~

    4.5 stars The Swordswoman of Words The Woman Warrior is Maxine Hong Kingston's own story of growing up Chinese-American, an irreconcilable position for her as the two cultures would seemingly clash, unable to provide her with a stable sense of identity. She grew up confused by the ideas and behavior of her parents and the villagers who had settled in Stockton, California, who saw their American-born children as very strange - not really Chinese. Her parents hoped one day to return the whole family 4.5 stars The Swordswoman of Words The Woman Warrior is Maxine Hong Kingston's own story of growing up Chinese-American, an irreconcilable position for her as the two cultures would seemingly clash, unable to provide her with a stable sense of identity. She grew up confused by the ideas and behavior of her parents and the villagers who had settled in Stockton, California, who saw their American-born children as very strange - not really Chinese. Her parents hoped one day to return the whole family to China - yet the China they had left had since changed. All she knew of the place she had never been, was through the 'talk-stories' told by her mother; parables in the Chinese tradition of telling magical stories and incorporating them into their everyday life; of ancestors and relatives, and great tales of mythic and cultural heroines. Her mother was exceedingly gifted in talking-story: Night after night my mother would talk-story until we fell asleep. I couldn't tell where the stories left off and the dreams began, her voice the voice of heroines in my sleep. And on Sundays, from noon to midnight, we went to movies at the Confucius Church. We saw swordswomen jump over houses from a standstill; they didn't even need a running start. At last I saw I too had been in the presence of great power, my mother talking- story. After I grew up, I heard the chant of Fa Mu Lan, the girl who took her father's place in battle. I had forgotten this chant...given me by my mother, who may not have known its power to remind. She said I would grow up a wife and a slave, but she taught me the song of the warrior woman, Fa Mu Lan. I would have to grow up a warrior woman. In The Woman Warrior, MHK constructs her own identity and the meaning of her life. She places herself as the primary narrator in stories artistically woven with Chinese myth and legend, including other women characters- some known and unknown, real and imagined. The stories are highly imaginative; the narrative flows with wondrous elements of magical-realism. The book is sectioned into five chapters, illustrating MHK's American experience: No Name Woman tells the story of her aunt who was ostracized for having an illegitimate child; White Tigers weaves the story of Fa Mu Lan- the mythical character to whom MHK most relates- who goes to battle in her father's stead and saves a village; Shaman tells the story of her mother, Brave Orchid, becoming a doctor in the old country and her immigration to America; At The Western Palace covers her mother's sister, Moon Orchid, in her journey to California in the hope of reconciling with her estranged husband; A Song for A Barbarian Reed Pipe reflects a poignant message of preservation of an ebbing culture and a melding of the current ones. MHK would often rebel against the stringent Chinese-feminine model: "I refused to cook. When I had to wash dishes, I would crack one or two. 'Bad girl,' my mother yelled, and sometimes that made me gloat rather than cry. Isn't a bad girl almost a boy?" She knew that she must become a warrior woman- strong, independent, a fighter, a burden to no one, she won't be silenced. She confessed to her mother that she, too, could 'talk-story'; and how immeasurably gifted she was at that! Her power was wielded in language, her 'loosened tongue', her voice; her sharpened pen became her sword, her strength. In an interview in the Atlantis publication jun-nov 1988, Maxine Hong Kingston explained that she took care to find the force of reason within her stories, the middle ground between the real world and the supernatural. 'The Woman Warrior' was a vehicle for the many voices MHK heard within herself. She hoped that her writings would give a voice to Chinese-American women, and that their everyday existence growing up in America within a traditional Chinese culture, would be seen with more compassion and understanding, with a bright look toward a balanced resolution. For MHK herself, The Woman Warrior finally reconciled those clashes of the two cultures, to the formation of a beautiful, enduring, identifiable new one. First read January 2009

  8. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    I'm writing this review up from my notes unfortunately, as I read it when I was too busy to sit down and type. It's one of the best memoirs I've ever read, marked by sensitivity, sorrow, unresolvable conflict transformed into a breathtaking work of art, an epic canvas unrolling intricacies and intimacies that made me miss my tube stop, get the wrong train, mix up bus routes, so absorbed was I by the character of Brave Orchid, the narrator's mother. This woman she admires and fears and at times f I'm writing this review up from my notes unfortunately, as I read it when I was too busy to sit down and type. It's one of the best memoirs I've ever read, marked by sensitivity, sorrow, unresolvable conflict transformed into a breathtaking work of art, an epic canvas unrolling intricacies and intimacies that made me miss my tube stop, get the wrong train, mix up bus routes, so absorbed was I by the character of Brave Orchid, the narrator's mother. This woman she admires and fears and at times feels rejected and hated by, whose behaviour is a mystery to her because she refuses to explain anything, seems to expect her to raise herself Chinese in barbarian America, a land of ghosts. I felt the desire the narrator had to accomplish this feat, her frustration at falling short of performing the impossible task This is a feminist text. It opens with a story, told by mother to daughter as a cautionary tale against promiscuity (or rather, the transgression of sexual boundaries) about the death of a female relative. The narrator, given only the bones of this story and perhaps haunted by it, has to imagine the details, and does so repeatedly, reorienting them each time to fit different perspectives. first, she rehabilitates her kinswoman's reputation by imagining her raped, blameless, caught in the fatal web of an intensely masculinist society. Second, she breathes life back into her by constructing a romance in which star crossed love comes to grief. Finally, she reviews the situation from the perspective of the villagers and family, delicately explaining their actions with chiaroscuro. And throughout each of these retellings, she integrates the effect the story had on her life in the USA, the way it changed how she thought about others' views of her and how she tried to behave socially. The result is a braided story that binds women's lives across time and culture, a half-tested guide-rope though hostile environments. A rope is many things, among them both saviour and weapon against oneself as well as others. Rage at the position of girls is worked into wish fulfilling self-mythologising in the delicate and poetic yet fierce story 'White Tigers', in which the narrator fantasises about doing what she imagines a girl must do to be valued. Tellingly this includes assuming a male disguise, but remaining a woman 'Marriage and childbirth strengthen the swordswoman, who is not a maid like Joan of Arc'. This protest story is a self-made talisman for the narrator, and it reflects images of Chinese culture that heal and sustain her, suppressing the words that chafe and damage. She makes her own empowerment by rooting down into her heritage, not by rejecting it. Parallel to this self-care project of making images she can inhabit and revision herself through, run the narratives through which she constructs her mother's humanity and inner life, gradually building images of her she can make sense of and feel for. Once again, to me these vignettes illuminate an unfamiliar style of being, yet one I can appreciate and respect: 'the sweat of hard work is not to be displayed. It is much more graceful to appear favoured by the gods'. Thus the narrator makes sense of her mother's secret night studying at medical school, covering the tracks of her path to shining success. At times it was almost unbearable to read the things said about girl-children (vermin in rice, for instance) as an adult woman, but the narrator was recalling hearing them as a child. The little warrior screams in protest, throws tantrums uncontained, paints everything black, refuses for years to speak. How did Chinese girls in China avoid such anguish, if they did? What did they learn that protected them? Or what, on the other hand, made the narrator vulnerable among ghosts to the rage and misery such hatred called forth from her? I remembered the miscommunications of The Joy Luck Club, and how lucid Tan made them by working both sides, playing out all the angles as omniscient author, comforting me with the reassurance that however differently, conflictedly and incommunicably, mothers and daughters loved each other. Kingston offers no such clarity. We have the narrator's feelings and her glorious, multivalent fantasies of her mother's inner life, her therapeutic self-mythologising, a patchy, lumpen blending of ways of being and knowing than opens doors and hearts, names spirits, recounts mysteries, but maintains, I felt, a kind of respectful refusal to assume. If Tan's edges cut cleanly, Kingston's are left rough. They scrape and hurt: something is catastrophically lost between China and the ghost country, the possibility of wholeness has fallen into the sea and sunk to the bottom. I gave The Joy Luck Club five stars, but Kingston's rejection of omniscience in this book makes its approach, to me, more... ethical, more admirable. The honesty and care the narrator employs is humbling. she conceives of her need for explanation for her mother's careful keeping of tradition as pouring concrete over a forest, killing the subtlety and cleverness of Chinese communication styles and life, even though it's her earnest desire, and blameless, surely, even admirable, because she is willing to become the carrier of tradition but it denied the opportunity. Yet her mother cannot shoulder the blame either; explanation is not the mode of conveyance needed, only the osmosis possible in immersion could educate the wayward daughter. Locked in the paths or poses of their unanswerable desires, mother and daughter carve their shapes into each other by attrition as they are rocked and rolled by USian waves. There is no resolution, only the story and its scarred traces.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston should not be judged until you reach its end. At the beginning it is confusing, disgusting and violent. As I got around towards the middle, I could make sense of what was going on and found myself laughing. I found myself nodding and saying that she, the author, HAS captured Chinese women, their manner and way of speaking--a sort of “Chinese-personality-type”. At the end, I had to acknowledge that the author had accurately and honestly drawn what it was lik The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston should not be judged until you reach its end. At the beginning it is confusing, disgusting and violent. As I got around towards the middle, I could make sense of what was going on and found myself laughing. I found myself nodding and saying that she, the author, HAS captured Chinese women, their manner and way of speaking--a sort of “Chinese-personality-type”. At the end, I had to acknowledge that the author had accurately and honestly drawn what it was like to be a daughter to Chinese immigrant parents in America in the middle of the 20th century. Chinese ways, myths and beliefs are woven into the author’s autobiography. The book consists of five stories that are interconnected. Not only the author’s but also her mother’s and aunts’ lives are spoken of. Published in 1975, the book was written when the author was thirty-five. Ming-Na narrates the audiobook very well, so four stars for the narration. It is easy to follow. The tone used for the different family members is perfect. Ming-Na really did have me laughing in the middle. ********************** *The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father 5 stars by Kao Kalia Yang *The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir 5 stars by Kao Kalia Yang *On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family 4 stars by Lisa See *The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures 4 stars by Anne Fadiman *Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness 4 stars by Tracy Kidder *The Woman Warrior 3 stars by Maxine Hong Kingston *Fifth Chinese Daughter 3 stars by Jade Snow Wong When I look at this list, I think how utterly amazing it is that books can be so very different and yet all worth reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Zen Cho

    Mmm, not a huge fan. Ought to write up a thinky review, with lots of discussion of representation and acknowledgment that it's unfair to expect every Chinese-American writer to describe the entire Chinese(-American) experience, but I am too lazy to do that right now. I think most of my issues with this book would've been solved if Hong Kingston stopped saying "Chinese blah blah blah", as if all Chinese people were one great homogeneous block and did the same thing, all the time and everywhere. ( Mmm, not a huge fan. Ought to write up a thinky review, with lots of discussion of representation and acknowledgment that it's unfair to expect every Chinese-American writer to describe the entire Chinese(-American) experience, but I am too lazy to do that right now. I think most of my issues with this book would've been solved if Hong Kingston stopped saying "Chinese blah blah blah", as if all Chinese people were one great homogeneous block and did the same thing, all the time and everywhere. (She kind of acknowledges this issue, in that she is like, I don't know what about me is Chinese and what is from my family and what is from the village etc. etc., but she then proceeds not to do anything about it.) Also that kind of very deep ambivalence about being Chinese/Chinese culture is quite strange to me, so it kind of put me off. (As far as I can recall, Amy Tan had a similar thing -- like, you could tell she had Issues -- and similar issues with her mom.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Barbara K

    This is an extraordinary book. It is a memoir of Kingston's childhood and adolescence, interspersed with Chinese legends featuring women. There is no question that it requires committed reading, especially at the beginning where the line is blurry between reality and "talk-stories", or cultural myths (including that of Mulan, of Disney fame). This confusion is further complicated by Kingston's use of the first, second and third person narrative voices. But the rewards are worth the effort, as we This is an extraordinary book. It is a memoir of Kingston's childhood and adolescence, interspersed with Chinese legends featuring women. There is no question that it requires committed reading, especially at the beginning where the line is blurry between reality and "talk-stories", or cultural myths (including that of Mulan, of Disney fame). This confusion is further complicated by Kingston's use of the first, second and third person narrative voices. But the rewards are worth the effort, as we become part of her unique experience. “Those of us in the first American generations have had to figure out how the invisible world the emigrants built around our childhoods fits in solid America.” There seem to have been two reactions to this book when it was first published. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award, no small achievement. But it was also dissed by a number of Chinese-American critics who felt her interpretations of the Chinese-American experience lacked authenticity. From what I've been able to determine by a quick internet search, those critics were primarily male, which brings us to a key element of this book: It is not simply an exploration of the overall first generation Chinese-American experience, it is a specific Chinese-American woman's experience. I would posit that any memoir legitimately reflects the life of the person writing and no one else. This 2017 quote from a much younger Chinese-American author, Angela Chen, who avoided reading The Woman Warrior for many years expresses that opinion more elegantly than I can: "But taken off this pedestal, the innovations and craft of The Woman Warrior become more apparent. It is a complex account of what it was like to be Kingston, writing about experiences at a time that few others did. It is the personal and not the general. It is not template, not beginning or end." This came to be my first read of 2021 by chance. I recently listened to a series of lectures about American best sellers through the centuries, and the only book that I hadn't already read that piqued my curiosity was The Woman Warrior. I'm so glad it did; it was a great way to begin the year.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    This book is beautifully written, with some lovely flights of fancy in it, and some very dramatic portrayals. But ultimately it is a depressing, horrifying, traumatic tale that left me with very little sympathy for the author. I can see that she had a difficult childhood, being the first American-born child of her Chinese parents, who never really settled emotionally into their new country. I can see the many conflicting issues she had to deal with in her youth, and how her mother's extremely fo This book is beautifully written, with some lovely flights of fancy in it, and some very dramatic portrayals. But ultimately it is a depressing, horrifying, traumatic tale that left me with very little sympathy for the author. I can see that she had a difficult childhood, being the first American-born child of her Chinese parents, who never really settled emotionally into their new country. I can see the many conflicting issues she had to deal with in her youth, and how her mother's extremely forceful personality combined with village traditions brought over from China stunted her development to a great degree. But to my way of understanding, the author turns on her heritage, almost wants to deny it, even to the point of torturing a classmate who (oddly enough) has many of the characteristics the author was trying to overcome at the time. This is sad because we should be proud of our background, not try to deny anything about it. Our ancestors and their traditions made us who we are. We do not have to feel forced to behave the same way, but we should not look back in disgust. That is denying a major part of our own selves. Who we each are is a blend of the past, the present, and our dreams for the future. But we have to have the inner courage first to know ourselves and then to become who we are meant to be. We cannot let anything, even a forceful parent, stop us. Perhaps I only feel that way because I did not have generations of traditions weighing me down when I was growing up. All I had to deal with was a strong mother, and that issue of the author's I could identify with. I had a sense of the author saying 'poor little me' behind every sentence, and that grew tiresome. Also tiresome was the author's way of portraying all Chinese as behaving the way her family did. No one can truly say that all the people from a country are a certain way, that simply is not true. I ended the book feeling annoyed. I can only hope that in her later life she was able to work out some of her issues and learn to enjoy her heritage at least a little bit.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Robinson

    To make my waking life American-normal, I turn on the lights before anything untoward makes an appearance. I push the deformed into my dreams, which are in Chinese, the language of impossible stories. Before we can leave our parents, they stuff our heads like the suitcases which they jam-pack with homemade underwear. (87)I understand why this book is listed as both fiction and a memoir. Maxine Hong Kingston weaves a personal memoir with shamanic/indigenous stories—the kind of tales you read in c To make my waking life American-normal, I turn on the lights before anything untoward makes an appearance. I push the deformed into my dreams, which are in Chinese, the language of impossible stories. Before we can leave our parents, they stuff our heads like the suitcases which they jam-pack with homemade underwear. (87)I understand why this book is listed as both fiction and a memoir. Maxine Hong Kingston weaves a personal memoir with shamanic/indigenous stories—the kind of tales you read in creation myths and ancestral indigenous stories transferred orally from generation to generation. It took me a little while to shift my Western mind to one that is open to the language of dreams, but once I did, I found this brutally compelling. Through it I think I have more understanding of Chinese and Chinese American women I have known . . . as well as a conviction that I'm lucky not to have been born into their culture—in any era—as I would have been a complete failure and probably suffered an early death. I had to put this book down a lot because it was so painful. In fact, had I not to committed to read this memoir for my book club, I probably would have abandoned it early—not because there is anything deficient about it; the writing is good, original, and alive—but because I do not enjoy stuffing my head "like the suitcases which [Chinese parents] jam-pack with homemade [nightmare] underwear." I am simply not a glutton for this kind of pain. The book is divided into five stories, and the fourth, "At the Western Palace," was so relentlessly harsh and realistic, conveying the strain and clash of Chinese vs. American and Chinese American conditioning that finishing was an act of will. The failing here is mine: I'm a wuss. Were I to find myself afloat in such an ocean of family pain, I'd leave. Postscript: The ending is good. A badly needed catharsis.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I think I read almost this entire book with my jaw dropped. Maxine Hong Kingston has an incredible ability to say so much, so brilliantly, within every single phrase. The structure of her memoir speaks to all three of her identifications - Chinese/ American/ Woman - merging fiction with non-fiction and her own story with those of relatives and mythic heroines, to create a piece that represents her own immersion in a culture far better than a more traditional autobiography or memoir ever could. S I think I read almost this entire book with my jaw dropped. Maxine Hong Kingston has an incredible ability to say so much, so brilliantly, within every single phrase. The structure of her memoir speaks to all three of her identifications - Chinese/ American/ Woman - merging fiction with non-fiction and her own story with those of relatives and mythic heroines, to create a piece that represents her own immersion in a culture far better than a more traditional autobiography or memoir ever could. Super-highly recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (not getting friends updates) Vegan

    Interesting. I just read my Goodreads friend Chelsea's review of this book and she says there is a story in here that didn't convince her to go vegetarian but brought her closer to giving up meat than anything else had. I read this book in 1976 and became a vegetarian in January 1977. It was something I'd been considering for a while, and had been reading all sorts of things from 1973 on, but now I'm wondering if this book had some influence on my decision. I still have a copy of my book somewher Interesting. I just read my Goodreads friend Chelsea's review of this book and she says there is a story in here that didn't convince her to go vegetarian but brought her closer to giving up meat than anything else had. I read this book in 1976 and became a vegetarian in January 1977. It was something I'd been considering for a while, and had been reading all sorts of things from 1973 on, but now I'm wondering if this book had some influence on my decision. I still have a copy of my book somewhere. I'm curious about what the story said. Vegan in spring 1988 after continuing to read and it was a book that got me to go vegan. Back then there were no vegan promoting films, no internet, etc. but even so books have such an influence on me. When I went vegan I knew no other vegans personally and when I went vegetarian I knew only one at the time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Owen

    I feel conflicted about this book. It is the first book by an Asian American writer accepted into the American canon (the first to be taught in universities etc.). And it has kind of an empowering message I guess. But her depiction of Asianness is so damn annoying. I had a prof who excuses it with this passage where Kingston has her grandma say something like, "do you really believe all these stories I tell you about China? they're just stories." how does that little paragraph excuse an entire b I feel conflicted about this book. It is the first book by an Asian American writer accepted into the American canon (the first to be taught in universities etc.). And it has kind of an empowering message I guess. But her depiction of Asianness is so damn annoying. I had a prof who excuses it with this passage where Kingston has her grandma say something like, "do you really believe all these stories I tell you about China? they're just stories." how does that little paragraph excuse an entire book where she's purporting to represent a monolithic and highly distorted Chinese culture? I've also seen her talk a few times and she's way foofy. Interestingly enough, she's a part of a writer's circle including Amy Tan, though of course Kington's books are nothing like the garbage Tan writes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I couldn't tell, and I don't think the publisher could either, whether this book was fiction or not. It is called a memoir, but on the back of my copy, it says fiction, yet it won an award for nonfiction. I know an author has creative license, especially with a memoir, but the realistic chapters placed next to fantasy ones made the book too disjointed for me and I couldn't get into it. It didn't challenge my thoughts of what a memoir is, I liked the fact that she incorporated dreams from her chi I couldn't tell, and I don't think the publisher could either, whether this book was fiction or not. It is called a memoir, but on the back of my copy, it says fiction, yet it won an award for nonfiction. I know an author has creative license, especially with a memoir, but the realistic chapters placed next to fantasy ones made the book too disjointed for me and I couldn't get into it. It didn't challenge my thoughts of what a memoir is, I liked the fact that she incorporated dreams from her childhood (I'm assuming) as reality when describing her childhood, because I remember how real my dreams and games and wishes seemed to me as a child. But this was hard for me to read because I really was expecting to read something coherent. And her fantasy sequence bored me. I much more enjoyed the realism. The first chapter blew me away and I was disappointed that the rest of the book wasn't like that.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Now on StoryGraph)

    I tried so hard with this because I know it's considered a classic of sorts, but I give up. Her writing style makes me dizzy. She jumps in and out of Chinese legend and actual family history, sometimes from one sentence to the next. It's too hard for my frazzled brain to follow. I tried so hard with this because I know it's considered a classic of sorts, but I give up. Her writing style makes me dizzy. She jumps in and out of Chinese legend and actual family history, sometimes from one sentence to the next. It's too hard for my frazzled brain to follow.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    A memoir of a Chinese-American woman of her experiences growing up in an immigrant family in Sacramento, and the tremendous weight and power of the mythical China her mother enveloped her in, her view of herself, stubborn and real, overlaid with her mother's Chinese sense of the worth of a girl (not much, and yet, the stories of the warrior girl makes us question that). Fascinating to reread a book so bold and new in form and content when it was first published in 1976, a moment women authors an A memoir of a Chinese-American woman of her experiences growing up in an immigrant family in Sacramento, and the tremendous weight and power of the mythical China her mother enveloped her in, her view of herself, stubborn and real, overlaid with her mother's Chinese sense of the worth of a girl (not much, and yet, the stories of the warrior girl makes us question that). Fascinating to reread a book so bold and new in form and content when it was first published in 1976, a moment women authors and women's' experiences were finally being viewed with serious interest in America, and see how familiar and understandable it is now, when once it had seemed so jagged and unfamiliar and yes, exotic. It paved the way for so many books about ethnic mythos and American ambivalence and women's power that it lost some of its startling quality, while retaining its mastery and depth and the trueness of its questions.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    I give up on this one. It was so hard for me to get through, and I can't figure out why. There are several short stories, which may be something I am not used to, or the fact that there is some fantastical writing in it and some hilarious things, too (old Chinese women following young kids around and talking out loud in description "and now she puts the spiders in the bowl and turns them on. Her eyes light up!") It's pretty good writing, but I just couldn't get into it and basically dragged my w I give up on this one. It was so hard for me to get through, and I can't figure out why. There are several short stories, which may be something I am not used to, or the fact that there is some fantastical writing in it and some hilarious things, too (old Chinese women following young kids around and talking out loud in description "and now she puts the spiders in the bowl and turns them on. Her eyes light up!") It's pretty good writing, but I just couldn't get into it and basically dragged my way through most of the book. Maybe it's just not the right time for this book for me!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Once when I was a kid some extended family came over and someone broke out Trivial Pursuit. Even though I was maybe 8, I got to be in on it because we were playing teams. Then I noticed the box stated the game was actually for ages "12 and up"--or whatever the number was--point is, I was below it. As a kid I believed this written statement to be LAW, and breaking the law was the worst thing you could do. I seem to remember bringing up my legal concerns and being unsatisfactorily brushed off. I w Once when I was a kid some extended family came over and someone broke out Trivial Pursuit. Even though I was maybe 8, I got to be in on it because we were playing teams. Then I noticed the box stated the game was actually for ages "12 and up"--or whatever the number was--point is, I was below it. As a kid I believed this written statement to be LAW, and breaking the law was the worst thing you could do. I seem to remember bringing up my legal concerns and being unsatisfactorily brushed off. I was definitely confused why my family would encourage me to break a law, but mostly I was just scared. The whole game was spent apprehensively looking out the window for approaching police cars on the prowl for illegal child gaming. At some later age, of course, I understood the point of those age recommendations. My family had deemed me old enough to sit still and show more interest in trying to answer questions than eating the plastic pie wedges. That was the end of thinking about it for them, while I sweated out the game swamped in guilt and fear. Everyone has lots of stories like this. Kids are strange unfinished creatures with bizarre impartial understanding of the world. I understood the mechanics of a trivia game but was completely mystified by the nuances of printed rules. The Woman Warrior is Kingston's version of these kinds of stories, only the subtext is much more complicated and the fears much less trivial (wow did I not plan to set up that pun, but Zing!!). She grew up in the U.S., born to a Chinese immigrant family, worked in her family's laundry, and attended both American and Chinese schools. Her stories waft between facts, hearsay, and Chinese mythology to show how all her experiences growing up are filtered through two cultures, without her really understanding either until she was older. Very interesting, fascinating read outside my usual genres.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sohaib

    "'I' is a capital and 'you' is lower-case." This sums up the focus of Maxine's memoirs: the cultivation of a hyphenated Chinese-American self in a world full of ghosts! Can she do it without a hitch? Without struggling to cope with the conflicting demands of family, school and society? Recommended. "'I' is a capital and 'you' is lower-case." This sums up the focus of Maxine's memoirs: the cultivation of a hyphenated Chinese-American self in a world full of ghosts! Can she do it without a hitch? Without struggling to cope with the conflicting demands of family, school and society? Recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜

    For a book that The New York Times called "A remarkable book...it burns the fat out of the mind. As a dream...it is dizzying, elemental, a poem turned into a sword." , I am wondering if whoever wrote the review read Richard Wright's Black Boy, not this emotionless soliloquy. This book starts out conglomerating Chinese culture and people and ends in a similar fashion. If colleges really want to teach about Asian-American or Chinese cultures and life, I don't understand why they'd pick a memoir so For a book that The New York Times called "A remarkable book...it burns the fat out of the mind. As a dream...it is dizzying, elemental, a poem turned into a sword." , I am wondering if whoever wrote the review read Richard Wright's Black Boy, not this emotionless soliloquy. This book starts out conglomerating Chinese culture and people and ends in a similar fashion. If colleges really want to teach about Asian-American or Chinese cultures and life, I don't understand why they'd pick a memoir so boring and stereotypical. Kingston does not know how to transition from one event to the next. Many paragraphs and scenes in this book are poorly constructed and executed, bouncing back and forth like a jump-cutting B-movie. Kingston's voice sounds forced and lifeless, which is unfortunate, as this memoir sounded very promising. This book fits colleges very well: It's politically correct to a point where it seeps off the pages in mass doses, the author's voice rings of one you'd hear from an NPR host, it talks about horrendous and perverse comportments in a tone so dull it's almost insulting, and the book just reeks of a holier-than-thou attitude that is common in college-assigned memoirs. I picked up this book myself, not have it assigned to me. I knew nothing about it being popular in colleges until I finished it a 2nd time (and severely disliked it). I'm glad I had more time with it then other students did, because then I had more time to thoroughly study the narrative. Unfortunately, I thought it was terrible. If you want to read some Asian-American lit, I don't recommend this one.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pink

    I'm not sure that I've read anything quite like this book before. A collection of five stories, memoirs, woven with Chinese folktales and all slightly different in their construction. I can see why it doesn't quite fit into a specific genre. I'd never heard of Maxine Hong Kingston until recently and although I think this text is taught text in America, I don't think it's well known in England. I'm really glad that I discovered it though, as I was mesmerised by the different stories, learning abo I'm not sure that I've read anything quite like this book before. A collection of five stories, memoirs, woven with Chinese folktales and all slightly different in their construction. I can see why it doesn't quite fit into a specific genre. I'd never heard of Maxine Hong Kingston until recently and although I think this text is taught text in America, I don't think it's well known in England. I'm really glad that I discovered it though, as I was mesmerised by the different stories, learning about Maxine, her family, their lives in America as well as their earlier history in China. Beautifully written and captivating to the end.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chitra Divakaruni

    An excellent book. I read this memoir of growing up Chinese American in California in graduate school, and was deeply moved by it. I particularly appreciated Hong Kingston's intertwining of ancient myth and contemporary immigrant challenges. Beautiful, powerful language. The first chapter, No Name Woman, about the terrible fate of a pregnant aunt in China, is unforgettable. This book, more than any other, made me believe my immigrant stories were also worth telling. This book, more than any othe An excellent book. I read this memoir of growing up Chinese American in California in graduate school, and was deeply moved by it. I particularly appreciated Hong Kingston's intertwining of ancient myth and contemporary immigrant challenges. Beautiful, powerful language. The first chapter, No Name Woman, about the terrible fate of a pregnant aunt in China, is unforgettable. This book, more than any other, made me believe my immigrant stories were also worth telling. This book, more than any other, made me into a writer.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Zachary F.

    I was never quite sure what to make of this while I was reading it and after six months I'm just as undecided. Kingston blends dreamy imagery from Chinese folklore with grounded reminiscences of her upbringing as a second-generation Chinese American in circa-1950s California. She's a skilled writer with an undeniable imaginative faculty, and I can see how this book, published in 1976, must have helped lay the groundwork for a whole subsequent genre of diaspora lit which only gets richer and more I was never quite sure what to make of this while I was reading it and after six months I'm just as undecided. Kingston blends dreamy imagery from Chinese folklore with grounded reminiscences of her upbringing as a second-generation Chinese American in circa-1950s California. She's a skilled writer with an undeniable imaginative faculty, and I can see how this book, published in 1976, must have helped lay the groundwork for a whole subsequent genre of diaspora lit which only gets richer and more diverse with each passing year. Kingston's influence still reverberates not only in contemporary memoirs, but also fiction, poetry, essays, and any number of other literary modes. Like many foundational works, however, The Woman Warrior is hard to separate from its own legacy or rate on its own merit. Despite Kingston's obvious talent, I often found her fusing of myth and fact to be uneven and disorienting, and her symbolic intentions obscure. Some sections are almost entirely folkloric ("White Tigers"), some are wholly realist ("At the Western Palace"), and almost all read more like standalone works than parts of a cohesive whole. The book is only six chapters—about 200 pages—long, but it feels like it wants to be, needs to be much longer in order for the bigger picture to emerge from the fragments. And as it turns out, this isn't far from the mark: according to Kingston, the text of The Woman Warrior was originally joined with that of her other book, China Men, but she separated them for fear the latter would undercut the former's feminist themes. Perhaps they should be read together after all—not having read China Men, I can't say for sure. So I'd be lying if I said my engagement with this work ever got much beyond intellectual curiosity; then again, I read it in month three of the COVID lockdown as a book club obligation and my mind was other places most of the time. Maybe that had an adverse effect on my experience, maybe not, but either way I freely (and sadly) admit that I have little worth saying to say about it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A.G.

    This is a remarkable book about female identity, female relationships, tradition and modernity, myth and truth, and Old World values revealed in "talk-stories" transported to the modern world in an assimilation of a collective sense of spirit of the Chinese-American woman and community. The stories of the book also reflect an ambiguity of feelings about what it means to be Chinese - a Chinese woman is supposed to be timid and be subservient to men and a girl is worthless compared to her male sib This is a remarkable book about female identity, female relationships, tradition and modernity, myth and truth, and Old World values revealed in "talk-stories" transported to the modern world in an assimilation of a collective sense of spirit of the Chinese-American woman and community. The stories of the book also reflect an ambiguity of feelings about what it means to be Chinese - a Chinese woman is supposed to be timid and be subservient to men and a girl is worthless compared to her male sibling, and yet Kingston relates stories that demonstrate the Chinese woman's strength and power not only in myth but in her own mother's strength and protectiveness.. The theme of the Americanization of the second generation Chinese can be observed in Kingston's descriptions where the younger generation is seen rolling their eyes at the myths and beliefs of their traditional Chinese family members and reminded me of another book by Luis Alberto Urrea, The House of Broken Angels based on the Mexican-American experience. Kingston's memoir honors and preserves the Chinese-American experience. The fluidity of Kingston's memoir between fiction and non-fiction - a blending of folk tales, myths and legends with the narrative of growing up in a different culture and making sense of who one is in real time - is the genius of this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    I've wanted to read this book for so very long and am so very glad it did not disappoint. MHK takes the reader on an entrancing journey, mixing memory with legend and creating a novel really unlike anything I've read before. It was a really compelling look at Chinese culture and at her own experiences growing up as a daughter of Chinese immigrants. It was especially interesting because I could see aspects of my own family experience in MHK's stories, even though I have generations removed and fro I've wanted to read this book for so very long and am so very glad it did not disappoint. MHK takes the reader on an entrancing journey, mixing memory with legend and creating a novel really unlike anything I've read before. It was a really compelling look at Chinese culture and at her own experiences growing up as a daughter of Chinese immigrants. It was especially interesting because I could see aspects of my own family experience in MHK's stories, even though I have generations removed and from a mixed marriage. All in all, a really beautiful novel that I will definitely need to reread in the future.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Rigsby

    Fantastic.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)

    "You must not tell anyone," my mother said, "what I am about to tell you. In China your father had a sister who killed herself. She jumped into the family well. We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born." I thought this book was amazing! So fantastic! Kingston instantly draws you in with her first line (above). I loved her story about being a Chinese-American and trying to find a culture that fit her. I would read this book for the first two chapters alo "You must not tell anyone," my mother said, "what I am about to tell you. In China your father had a sister who killed herself. She jumped into the family well. We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born." I thought this book was amazing! So fantastic! Kingston instantly draws you in with her first line (above). I loved her story about being a Chinese-American and trying to find a culture that fit her. I would read this book for the first two chapters alone. The second chapter is the story of Fa Mu Lan who is a bit more hardcore than the Disney version. Kingston also attacks the subject of what it means to be a girl in Chinese culture, which for her was not always easy. It was a beautiful memoir about learning to live with all of our ghosts. "She (Mama) had not called me that endearment (Little Dog) for years-a name to fool the gods. I am really a Dragon, as she is a Dragon, both of us born in dragon years." "We could be heroines, swordswomen. Even if she had to rage across all China, a swordswoman got even with anybody who hurt her family. Perhaps women were once so dangerous that they had to have their feet bound." Erika's Amazon Link

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