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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Maxine Hong Kingston
(b. 1940)

Born in Stockton, California, in 1940, Maxine Ting Ting Hong is the eldest of six surviving children of Tom Hong (scholar, laundry man, and manager of a gambling house) and Ying Lan Chew (midwife, laundress, field hand). She earned a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1962 and a teaching certificate in 1965. She has lived and worked both in California and in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Author of three award-winning books, The Woman Warrior (1976), China Men (1980), and Tripmaster Monkey (1989), Maxine Hong Kingston is undoubtedly the most-recognized Asian American writer today. Her work attracts attention from many arenas: Chinese Americans, feminist scholars, literary critics, and the media. In 1977 Kingston won the Mademoiselle Magazine Award, in 1978 the Anisfield Wolf Race Relation Award. In 1980 she was proclaimed Living Treasure of Hawaii. The Woman Warrior received the National Book Critics Award for the best book of nonfiction in 1976, and Time magazine proclaimed it one of the top ten nonfiction works of the decade. It is, however, a collage of fiction and fact, memory and imagination—a hybrid genre of Kingston’s own devising. Through the Chinese legends and family stories that marked her childhood and the mysterious old-world customs that her mother enforced but did not explain, through Kingston’s own experiences and her imaginative and poetic flights, The Woman Warrior details the complexities and difficulties in Kingston’s development as a woman and as a Chinese American. It focuses on a difficult and finally reconciled mother/daughter relationship.

Kingston’s second book, China Men, focuses on men and is shaped by a rather uncommunicative father/daughter relationship. It depends heavily on family history, American laws, and imaginative projections based loosely on historical fact. Its purpose, Kingston has stated, is to “claim America” for Chinese Americans by showing how indebted America is to the labor of Chinese men, her great-grandfathers and grandfathers, who cleared jungle for the sugar plantations in Hawaii, who split rock and hammered steel to build railroads in the United States, who created fertile farmland out of swamp and desert, yet faced fierce discrimination and persecution. In this text, too, Kingston blends myth and fact, autobiography and fiction, blurring the usual dividing lines.

In Tripmaster Monkey, her first novel, Kingston again blends Chinese myth with American reality. She combines allusions to a Chinese classic, Monkey or Journey to the West, the story of a magical, mischievous monkey who accompanies a monk to India for the sacred books of Buddhism, with the life of a 1960s Berkeley beatnik playwright.

Amy Ling
University of Wisconsin at Madison

King-Kok Cheung
University of California, Los Angeles

In the Heath Anthology
from The Woman Warrior
      White Tigers (1975-1976)

Other Works
China Men (1980)
Hawai'i One Summer (1987)
Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1989)

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Maxine Hong Kingston
Biographical details and a bibliography of secondary sources.

Maxing Hong Kingston
A detailed biography and literary introduction.

Taking Tea with Maxine Hong Kingston
A conversation between Clive Meachen, Dominic Williams, and Maxine Hong Kingston, originally published in Manuscript, Winter 1996/97.

Tricksters in Doctorow and Kingston
Essay on the trickster figure in E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime and Maxine Hong Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey; His Fake Book.

Voices from the Gaps
Brief excerpt from The Woman Warrior and biographical and bibliographical information.

Secondary Sources