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5.0 out of 5 stars Intense
If only this book had been fiction. The stories were so intense and heart wrenching, it was like a near death experience where one sees their entire life flash before their eyes, able to feel and experience every joy and pain that we have caused another to feel. Maxine's characters were described with such detail that I was there with them.
It has been said that our...
Published on Jan. 24 2003 by Emma Howard

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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, Oct. 15 2006
By 
H. Jong "Iris" (USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Trailblazer, June 5 2004
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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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Chinese-American Read, April 26 2004
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.
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2.0 out of 5 stars ------------------------------------------------------------, Dec 1 2003
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A more realistic, no-nonsense version of the Joy-Luck Club, Nov. 13 2003
By 
Nicholas J. Delillo (White Plains, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Terribly unsubstantiated load of filth, May 2 2003
By 
ruitao (Chicago, IL) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)
It is true that some of the horrific deeds to have occurred within China was described adequately in Mrs. Kingston's memoirs, however, it presents too stark an image to those who are unknowing of China's history. Thus, these people are likely to associate the occurances in this book with the entirety of China's population. For example, Mrs. Kingston seems to remember her mother buying a slave girl from China, though it is not disclosed where such events actually took place (this is to assert that the selling of girls were rampant everywhere in China), when in reality the practice of selling girls was illegal in places excluding the most outlying of farmlands. Yet another example has her describing the Chinese language as being "ugly", when clearly she is referring exlusively to Cantonese and not Mandarin. This book is the work of a woman who has had no first-hand experience in living in China for prolonged periods of time, and because of this, her book cannot be held as historically accurate or even close to being so. At the time of her writing this novel, Mrs. Kingston was under the heavy influence of the Nationalists, and it is surprising to see the way her writing transitions from part to part (Mandarin Pinyin in the beginning and Taiwanese phonetics (Wades-Giles method) in the last half -- this juxtaposes "civilized" and "uncivilized", whatever that may mean). This is a biased work of pure fiction, and it cannot be ascertained as to why Mrs. Kingston held such deep-rooted hatred for the Mainland Chinese at the time, even though she was never there to experience the cultural revolution.
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2.0 out of 5 stars overrated, April 28 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)
Perhaps to those with little to zero first-person experience as a Chinese this is a masterpiece. To them, this is a work that sheds light into the intricacies of a foreign culture--words and tradition and verbal folklore interweaved, an amazing quilt, filled and breathed with life through Hong Kingston's imagination and memory.
But to those who are like myself and a few other reviewers here, Hong Kingston stuns us with her use of trite exaggerations already plaguing Chinese stereotypes. This naive exploitation is afforded by her misguided understanding of the cultural roots she is writing about. Even though these stories related to us, came to Hong Kingston first-hand, should we not consider the validity of her retelling, influenced by her own ability to interpret?
It reminds me of the overpriced beef and brocolli dish, served at a very fancy "authentic" looking Chinese restaurant.
To drive my point home, let me point out that had Hong Kingston written the same stories/books under a different name, and without revealing her ethnicity, more people would dismiss her works as yet another Jerry Lewis minstrel of the mysogonistic, backward, mystical-illogical Chinese.
But I did add another star (saving my rating form a mere 1), due to the fact that I am in support of her effort (and apparent success) to make the Chinese (and Asians in general) a bit more visible in the field of American literature.
As a postscript, I would suggest Hong Kingston study the writings of Toni Morrison and Jhumpa Lahiri in the art of storytelling.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps it's personal bias, but I found this book very whiny, April 19 2003
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)
As a first generation Chinese in America, I was annoyed by the whininess of this book. Kingston seems to have been an especially naive and empathetic child, but what she experienced is not unique, and certainly not as cruel as she makes it seem.
In Chinese, are Caucasians referred to as ghosts? Yes, literally speaking 'ghosts' one of the derogatory terms. But we also call a bad person a bad egg, and a bastard, the egg of a toad and turtle. And I certainly would find a book titled "Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Eggs" more interesting.
I think Kingston manipulated cultural shock to gain sympathy. And I am annoyed that stories like this dominate American literature, which creates a misshapen view of a generation of Chinese women. That is, the older women of Kingston's novel all have misogynistic tendencies.
Most Chinese women between 50-60 years old went through the Cultural Revolution in China, and many are extremely politically minded, and full of feminist ideals. Many Chinese women older than that, fought in World War II, and the Chinese Civil War.
So, perhaps I am just bias, but I personally felt that this novel does a great disservice to older Chinese women.
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3.0 out of 5 stars HOW TO GAIN PITY, Feb. 12 2003
By 
eeeeffff (al-ba-ker-kee.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)
Kingston, with her novel about misplaced and awkward lives in society, uses the first person narrative to make the reader understand the problems and opinions of herself, and the way she sees the world. A story about a Chinese girl lost and confused in a new culture, The Woman Warrior has very strong and savage views. These opinions are only enhanced by the first person, and give a greater impact to the message. Slightly disturbed and greatly angered by unfain treatment, Kingston's book is a rather hateful one. She uses strong words, blunt remarks, and subliminal messages to give the reader a feeling that she is simply lost in a world full of hallow ghosts. Throughout the entire novel she portrays herself as the victim, in an attempt to gain the reader's pity. A sad reflection of her own life, The Woman Warrior is truly a novel about a lost soul in an unfamiliar place.
One would first assume Kingston to be a very bitter person, but her strong opinions are formed by the society she lives in. An old Chinese saying, "Better to raise geese than girls," (pg. 46), angers Kingston as a child. Her entire lifestyle and culture, American and Chinese, revolves around the concept of male dominance. Throughout the book the reader sees the cynical hatred Kingston holds for anyone who who does not sympathize with her race and gender; even by writing this book she asks for the pity of others. Such an example can be found when Brave Orchid (Kingston's mother) and Moon Orchid (Kingston's aunt), set out to avenge the marriage of Moon Orchid's husband and new wife. It is not only the cultural differences which set the awkwardness of the confrontation, but Kingston's mother's rage against the weak, (a trait later found in Kingston), which make this argument concerning divorse troublesome. Moon Orchid is shy and afraid, while Brave Orchid, anger fuled by Moon Orchid's timidness and her own extreamly feminist views, demands that she reclaim her title as wife. By the way Kingston words and retells her mother's expiriances, the reader understands the implied message that it is the husband who divorced who is evil, and the shy female who is right; this makes the first person narrative effective in that the reader sees the very strong emotions felt by Kingston and her mother. THe first person is also used to create bias opinions and exagerated comments, such as with Moon Orchid's "animalistic" children. Seen as lying, rude, vain, and selfish, the harsh words of Kingston try to make the reader think the children really are so selfish and evil, when infact it is only a misunderstood cultural difference. By being in the first person, the reader sees the opinions of Kingston, and must try to formulate what is truth and what is exagerated. Kingston, her own views tainted and twisted by society's treatment, uses the first person point of view very well to try to gain the sympathy of the reader.
Well written and very vague, this book leaves the reader searching for the truth rather than Kingston's bias views. Slightly disturbed, she is able to claim the pity of her readers by displaying herself as a victim of racial and cultural differences, and the rest of the world as mindless and uncaring drones. With the first person narrative, she can turn the reader's opinion to fit her own. She very effectivly gain's the readers pity.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, Jan. 24 2003
By 
Emma Howard (Kailua, HI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Paperback)
If only this book had been fiction. The stories were so intense and heart wrenching, it was like a near death experience where one sees their entire life flash before their eyes, able to feel and experience every joy and pain that we have caused another to feel. Maxine's characters were described with such detail that I was there with them.
It has been said that our lives appear as a chess game seen from above , with all of our life times being lived in unison. The power of each story within the book felt like that, with each position on the chess board representing a different story.
A bold artist to have created this intense collection.
I am only sorry that I have learned of atrocities that actually happened and are happening right now to my fellow human beings and other living creatures. Such a painful reminder that we are not here to inflict pain upon others. I wanted to scream out to the soldiers as they were brutalizing the pregnant women until they miscarried their babies only to have them be murdered in front of them. I felt like a ghost , watching as I read and unable to help the women. Each turn of the page was like taking another breath that I wanted to give to the women and their babies to help them not to die.
...
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The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts
The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston (Paperback - April 23 1989)
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