5.0 out of 5 stars The first of this genre
I didn't know beans about Chinese women when a friend put this book into my hands about 20+ years ago. Talk about a revelation. The Woman Warrior preceded Amy Tan's novels by at least a decade and went on to win several awards. It's about growing up Chinese American in California's Central Valley, working in the family laundry, and having to listen to her mother's stories...
Published on Nov 17 2003 by Peggy Vincent
3.0 out of 5 stars Vivid descriptions but ambiguous storyline
Kingston strives to weave a profound, complex story about being a Chinese-American in The Woman Warrior, but usually only succeeds in coming up with an unorganized, choppy book that doesn't consistently flow or excite. She explores the racism towards Chinese-America women with her own family's history by juxtaposing the comfortable with the unknown, the fantastic with the...
Published on Oct 15 2006 by H. Jong
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3.0 out of 5 stars Vivid descriptions but ambiguous storyline,
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)Kingston strives to weave a profound, complex story about being a Chinese-American in The Woman Warrior, but usually only succeeds in coming up with an unorganized, choppy book that doesn't consistently flow or excite. She explores the racism towards Chinese-America women with her own family's history by juxtaposing the comfortable with the unknown, the fantastic with the mundane. Some chapters are successful in portraying the characters as isolated but strong women, but others only succeed in making the reader feel confused and unconnected to the story.
The novel begins by detailing the story of Kingston's aunt, who was shamed after having an illegitimate child; the first chapter encompasses most of the themes and styles of the rest of the novel, and, like the rest of the book, it is excessively ambiguous. Kingston constantly switches between past tense and present tense truth and imagination. In a single chapter, Kingston describes both her own life and her aunt's life as she pictures it from the stories her mother tells. While these elements are used as a stylistic device for an effect of uncertainty and ambiguity, they are too overwhelming, especially in the first chapter of the story. The reader does not know who Kingston, the narrator, is yet, but the author instantly jumps into narrating two overlapping stories. This chapter does, however, have redeeming qualities. It immediately reflects Kingston's gift for vivid imagery and description, so that, even if the reader may not understand the plot, he or she may still appreciate the colorful and detailed pictures Kingston draws in her narration.
The second chapter, least connected with Kingston's own life, is the most epic and exciting, especially because of Kingston's excellent descriptions. Again, Kingston does not make clear the point of view; it is difficult to realize immediately that Kingston is actually describing the tale of Fa Mu Lan, but in a first-person perspective. This does, however, make the chapter more emotional for the reader. As for the storyline itself, it is, I think, the best one in the book. The reader does not feel obligated to relate to Kingston's struggles with racism and acceptance, because the story does not relate to Kingston. The story is a fantasy, filled with magical elements as well as intense emotions such as love, determination, and spirit. The reader feels liberated as Fa Mu Lan triumphs over boorish warriors despite her original status as a girl. Later, however, Kingston attempts to connect Fa Mu Lan's fantastic tale to her own struggles as a Chinese-American. She first describes her inability to assert herself, and then claims that her true power is in her writing. This brief conclusion feels irrelevant and stark compared to the brilliant story of Fa Mu Lan. Though Kingston tries to tie the story back to her own life, she ends up making her life seem bleak and unimportant in contrast with Fa Mu Lan's life.
Kingston draws the following story from an outside source, her mother. This chapter is another intriguing and riveting part of Kingston's novel, coincidentally, it also involves supernatural elements and follows the tale of a woman who triumphs over typical gender roles. Kingston creates a fascinating tale by using the perfect blend of dialogue and unusual descriptions. The plot of this chapter, which involves Kingston's mother's transition from a revered doctor in China to a laboring wife in America, again contains two contrasting themes. And again, the narration that involves fantasy, growth, and triumph is exciting and absorbing, while the narration of struggles of American life are dull. Kingston attempts to draw the reader into all parts of her story, but the parts that relate to the struggles of female Chinese-Americans are only dull, not profound, because they are too unfamiliar to impact the reader, and too unremarkable to entice the reader.
The final chapters of The Woman Warrior, which revert back to the ambiguous, unorganized format of sections of previous chapters, are not very satisfying. Kingston begins to describe yet another disconnected aspect of struggling as a Chinese in America, this time narrating her aunt's story from a third-person perspective. While Kingston is able to depict the conflict caused when a traditional Chinese clashes with modernized Americans, it is difficult to sympathize with her aunt. Kingston moves too quickly from one story to another, and, apart from the themes, the stories are almost completely disconnected. The last chapter is the most disorientated as Kingston quickly shifts back to narrating her own childhood. Even the themes in this chapter seem disconnected from themes from the previous chapters. Kingston portrays herself as a cruel and violent girl. This is an awful way to end the book, as the reader feels only contempt and confusion towards Kingston.
Your reaction towards the book will depend on your personal history. You are probably more likely to enjoy the book if you have experienced hardships arising from cultural differences and isolation. Though Kingston displays a gift for language- especially description and epic storytelling, her attempts to incite the reader's empathy do not succeed.
4.0 out of 5 stars Trailblazer,
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)I'm astonished to read so many virulently negative reviews. I read this book just after it came out, as a high-school student, and loved it for the strength of the writing and the vivid images, also the mix of fantasy and reality.
I do recall being a bit surprised at her anger, but up until then the only stories of Chinese-American girlhood that were available (all one or two of them, I think; this was the mid-70s) portrayed very dutiful, very quiet, very "good" girls. So this was an eye-opener and a stereotype buster, and should be welcomed for that. We have to remember that this was written nearly 30 years ago, when the whole multi-cultural debate was really just getting going; perhaps some things in it would be different now. But the trailblazers in any society often have to be angry to get their messages heard -- and taken seriously. And people like Maxine Hong Kingston laid the foundations that allowed literature by people like Amy Tan to be published. She deserves credit for this.
I can definitely see that aspects of the book could be annoying to Asian-Americans who find people taking this as gospel about Chinese culture, though.
But I'd also like to suggest that some of the negative responses might also come from people uneasy with the idea that non-white people are angry about the racism they've experienced in the United States. It's easy to think this anger is exaggerated if you've never experienced racism.
4.0 out of 5 stars women warrior,
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)The book by Maxine Kinston is based on five different stories about different Chinese women. The novel is filled with Chinese folktales and culture. This is a story that one as a Chinese or any other culture could relate to because throughout the novel shows ancestry and tales about myths and legends. The novel will take you through stories of deception and haunt that is told through the eyes of Kingston herself. Starting with long lost aunts followed by so-called ghost warriors and ending with stories about her mother's life back in china; this book will keep you reading until the end. I recommend this story to anyone who is interested in story tale and culture of a different sort, that of Chinese. I enjoyed reading the novel myself and it kept me reading in interest on the twist and turns of Kingston's life.
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Chinese-American Read,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)I enjoyed reading the fictional tale Warrior Woman by Maxine Hong Kingston. I think anyone who likes to see how other cultures live and relate to one another will enjoy this story. Readers who enjoy fantasy type stories will also enjoy this book, because it is rich in both types of story telling. After reading the novel, I can appreciate Chinese culture more, and although I usually shy away from fantasy stories and novels, the sections dealing with fantastic themes drew me in. In the story White Tigers, I was attempted to skip pages until the end of the section, but somehow I kept reading the story and I became more involved in it. When I realized the story was being told to empower Chinese women, it gave the whole fantasy a new meaning to me. Women at the time of the story held little value in Chinese society. Girls grow up, go away, and leave their aged parents, but boys were expected to stay with the parents along with their wives to care for their elderly parents.
The story No Name Woman disturbed me as I read. No name woman was the narrator's aunt. The aunt became No Name Woman after her family disowned her for committing adultery and becoming pregnant. The aunt would never name the father, so he could bear in her shame. What bothered me most about this section is not so much that the father escaped punishment, although that bothered me too, but the total lack of forgiveness from the family. Because of this total lack of family forgiveness, this young woman killed herself and her newborn. How terribly sad!
Although the Chinese society seemed to value family and a tradition, I found it highly curious that they could not speak about sex at all and they went to great lengths to avoid even family intimacy. Kingston describes how family members in China shout into each other's faces and yell at each other across the room. At mealtimes, which is a sort of intimate family time, no one talks.
I found the section At the Western Place intriguing. I am aware that there are many immigrants who come to the United States to make a better life for themselves, many times leaving families behind until they can establish themselves. When I read how Moon Orchid had been waiting for her husband for over 30 years and he never returned, instead establishing a new family in the United States, to say I was taken back, is expressing my reaction mildly. Moon Orchid did not seem to mind the arrangement though. Could it have been because she was well provided for financially without the obligation of carrying out wifely duties? Perhaps she enjoyed the prestige of being a married woman. Whatever her reasons, I felt so sorry for her after her sister Brave Orchid forced a confrontation between the estranged spouses. Moon Orchid was devastated by the encounter and was never the same afterwards. Something intangible and innocent within her was forever altered.
I would recommend that this book be read in a thoughtful and serious manner, although the narrative is by no means heavy or serious, but the characters themselves as interesting as well as being a complex mixture of clashes between their own culture and their assimilation to American culture. There are marked differences between the struggles of the young people and the struggles of the older people and how both groups try to fit into the new society while holding onto parts of traditional Chinese culture. I found The Warrior Woman a good read.
2.0 out of 5 stars ------------------------------------------------------------,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)This book is excellent as a literary work, but I wouldn't raise it to any position higher than that. The language used is magnificent, and as an autobiography, the whole metaphoric Fa Mu Lan epic is appropriate.
However, as a 1st generation Chinese American, I absolutely do not approve of the cultural misrepresentations permeating every aspect of this book. I understand that Kingston was not trying in any way to paint a portrayal of Chinese culture, but that is what the autobiography becomes when thrown to the hands of non-Chinese. By "non-Chinese", I am not referring to skin, but rather cultural essence. More specifically, when thrown to my predominantly non-Chinese sophomore English class, this book serves only to fuel the aura of mystique surrounding Chinese culture and perpetuate rumors of misogyny. Discussions on this book are accompanied with a sort of pseudo-sacred air and such fantastic speculations of the "Yellow Man" are made that I simply don't know whether to cry or laugh. Oftentimes, I am on the brink of hurling the book at some ignorant classmate and berating the teacher for her terrible interpretations of Chinese culture. All the wonderful metaphoric language and the horribly mangled Fa Mu Lan legend don't help the situation either. I recommend the book for what it is, but not as a cultural representation. I therefore leave with this caution: read this for its language and message, but don't take the latter to heart.
Looking beyond Kingston's personal interpretation of Chinese culture, the book admittedly has its plusses. ...this was my only solace when reading the book. It is "impressionistic", if you will.
5.0 out of 5 stars The first of this genre,
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)I didn't know beans about Chinese women when a friend put this book into my hands about 20+ years ago. Talk about a revelation. The Woman Warrior preceded Amy Tan's novels by at least a decade and went on to win several awards. It's about growing up Chinese American in California's Central Valley, working in the family laundry, and having to listen to her mother's stories that were designed to scare her into "good behavior." Some of these "talk stories" depicted women as fierce and strong warriors, while at the same time they were enslaved by their culture.
This memoir is intense, mystical, introspective, and full of marvelous and unexpected twists and turns. If you haven't yet read it, now's your chance.
4.0 out of 5 stars A more realistic, no-nonsense version of the Joy-Luck Club,
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)Allow me to qualify this review by saying although I am a white male, I am married to a Filippino woman, I have worked alongside students from China for years, and have gained a moderate knowledge of the Mandarin Chinese language and its culture.
All of that said, this book opened my eyes somewhat to the Chinese immigrant experience in America, the views of Asian women and parents, and of the Chinese mindset in general.
Like the Joy luck club, this book leaves the reader with a powerful and vivid view of early-to-mid 20th century Chinese life both back in China and in America. This view is particularly detailed in its view of its women and the parent-child experience. Unlike the Joy-Luck club, this book does not glorify the chinese experience. Although you expect, and receive, a certain amount of ethnic pride and ethnocentrism (particularly from such an all-inclusive "members only" group) in Maxine's writing, the reader also sees that even this exclusive group and culture has as many unique shortcoming and problems to deal with as it does things to be proud of.
The book often rambles, and is often confusing as to who is narrating, but complete comprehension is not necessary to enjoy this book. True understanding - and enjoyment- in this book comes from the viewing the forest rather than the trees. Pay attention to the style of the writing, the hidden subtleties and overlooked intricacies that the author deftly uses(so common to the Chinese culture), and you will see what I mean.
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but ultimately confusing,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)This book is a very interesting memoir of Kingston's life and provides valuable information about the Chinese culture and the shock of adapting to a new country. Yet, it is very confusing and at times rambles on and on. The author switches narrators a couple times throughout the novel without alerting the reader. Also, a lot of speculation is made in this novel about the lives of her family. Seeing as she has no way of knowing, I disliked those parts as well. All in all it is an interesting read but don't expect too much.
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent,
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)Written by a prominent figure of Chinese-Americans, this is a definite read for anyone interested in a real perspective of immigrant life in the U.S.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fiction Biography,
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)I read _The Woman Warrior_ in my AP English Class and my English teacher was wonderful in explaining the book, as my teacher has a degree in Literary Analysis, and explained that this book is more fictional then it is truthful. Maxine Hong Kingston's writing style and elaborate way of explaining about her memories puts a twist on her memories that turns them into a sort of fictional or fantasy dream. One gets enraptured into her own memories, with some truth about Chinese history, and one feels as if they are in an entirely new world. Though the history seems a bit far fetched in some instances, there is still some accurate history, as she is of a Chinese family that came from China. One should remember that this is a book written based off of her life from childhood, but as every child has, their imaginations change things, which Kingston does in the telling of her life with some fictional things in it.
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The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston (Paperback - April 23 1989)
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