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The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood…
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The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (original 1975; edition 1989)

by Maxine Hong Kingston (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,145611,955 (3.78)108
Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity.
Member:dandelionroots
Title:The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts
Authors:Maxine Hong Kingston (Author)
Info:Vintage (1989), Edition: Reissue, 209 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Society

Work details

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston (Author) (1975)

  1. 20
    The Ballad of Mulan by Song Nan Zhang (bertilak)
  2. 00
    The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: The first widely read Asian American book written by a woman, blending memoir, fiction and legend.
  3. 00
    Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong (Imprinted)
  4. 00
    The Opposite of Fate: a book of musings by Amy Tan (cransell)
    cransell: Another memoir by a Chinese-American woman. Both are very good.
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» See also 108 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
The book mixes autobiography with Chinese folklore, making it quite a fascinating read. The author wishes to be Fa Mu Lan, the heroine who went to war in place of her father. It signifies her wish to break away from the shackles of her family, full of Chinese families do-and-don'ts. I find it amazing that I could actually relate to some of the taboos her mother told her about when we are generations apart and separated by vast seas, especially those things that mothers tell you not to do but without giving any reason, and where there don't seem to be any good reason at all. You just have to accept or else you will be scolded. ( )
  siok | May 23, 2020 |
"How do you separate what is peculiar to childhood, to poverty, insanities, one family, your mother who marked your growing with stories, from what is Chinese?"

Kingston artistically illuminates how difficult it is to tease apart your pieces in an attempt to make sense of the whole. Impactful and educational memoir -

"The sweat of hard work is not to be displayed. It is much more graceful to appear favored by the gods." *cheekysmirk* ( )
  dandelionroots | May 22, 2020 |
It was interesting which parts of this book I remembered from when I read it in high school. I could turn it into a strange kind of character study, seeing what I remembered, what I brought with me all these years later.

I decided to re-read this because I watched Disney's "Mulan" and remembered having read a story about the Chinese version of her (as compared with the Disney version).

It was nice to reconnect with my high-school-English-class self and with my Chinese half of the family, though a couple generations removed. I wonder how my grandparents behaved at Chinese school. I wonder if their parents made them translate things they were embarrassed about.

This is a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, and the line between the two is so skillfully blurred that you won't know when you crossed it. ( )
  ca.bookwyrm | May 18, 2020 |
''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 winter 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.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jan 17, 2020 |
This was the August PBS/NYT Now Read This selection. It’s been hailed for 40 years as a classic of Chinese-American memoir literature. It’s also been highly criticized.

It’s a different sort of memoir. The author combines the story of her childhood in a Chinese-American neighborhood with her mother’s stories of China and Chinese folktales.

Kingston was never quite sure which of her mother’s stories were true and which were merely supposed to be morally instructive. And so, it’s memoir with a strong dose of what her mother called ‘talk-story’: and combines fiction with non-fiction.

It’s a story of strong women in a world not always kind to women. She relates the tale of Fa Mu Lan, the Chinese folk heroine who donned men’s clothes and fought in battle. She tells the story of her mother, a medical doctor in China, who having joined her husband in the United States, slaved night and day in the family Chinese laundry. Not all the women warriors win; some lose; some give up and settle in the place they have arrived.

But it’s a story of how author Maxine Hong Kinston became the person she is. And that’s the best kind of memoir. ( )
1 vote streamsong | Sep 11, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kingston, Maxine HongAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Evenari, Gail K.Author photographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guo, XiaoluIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lai, Chi-YeeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sann, JohnCover photographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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