Discuss the theme of "search of identity" in Kingston's China Men.

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Payal Khullar | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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“Search for personal identity” is a popular theme in Maxine Hong Kingston’s works. In her novel China Men, Kingston tries to decipher the theme of American-Chinese identity and voice in the American society through a collection of biographies of the male ancestors of her family who came to America in the past. Kingston imagines and reconstructs the past to give an account of the experiences and hardships of the male members of her family (brother, father, grandfather, etc.) in America. 

China Men is considered to be the sequel of Kingston’s novel The Woman Warrior. It is said that they are two volumes of the same book published separately. The Woman Warrior, written with first person perspective, features strong traditional autobiographical tones and discusses her quest to find herself and her identity in relation to others. But unlike The Woman Warrior, Kingston’s voice isn’t the focus of China Men and, in fact, she seldom appears as a character of the novel. While in The Woman Warrior, Kingston tries to find her woman identity in a man’s world; in China Men, Kingston examines the role and place of a Chinese individual in the power dynamics of the American society through the lens of males of her family.

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