Maxine Hong Kingston Biography

Maxine Hong Kingston Biography

Maxine Hong Kingston, born Maxine Ting Ting Hong, is the third of eight children. Her parents were born in China but came to the United States in the 1920s and ran a laundry house, despite the fact that her father was a scholar and teacher in China. Kingston is known for her intricate weaving of fact and fiction, and she has won several prestigious literary awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction as well as the 1981 National Book Award. Kingston also received the 1997 National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton. A notable political activist, she even won a publishing award for editing the book Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace in 2006. Her best-known works are The Woman Warrior and China Men, both nonfiction.

Facts and Trivia

  • Kingston’s novel Tripmaster Monkey is based on Sun Wu Kong, a mythical Chinese character.
  • Kingston taught high school math and English in the earlier years of her marriage. 
  • Kingston was arrested in 2003 during a protest against the Iraq War when she stepped over a police line. She shared a jail cell with authors Alice Walker and Terry Tempest Williams, who were also part of the demonstration. 
  • Kingston won eleven scholarships that allowed her to attend the University of California at Berkeley. She began her college years as an engineering major before switching to English literature.
  • Kingston’s early books have been criticized as not portraying Chinese culture accurately enough. She has countered that she is merely explaining her own experiences, not Chinese culture as a whole.
  • Kingston has also served as a writing professor across the country in locations such as Hawaii, California, and Michigan.
  • She has cited Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, and William Carlos Williams as inspirations and influences.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Born the daughter of Chinese immigrants Tom and Ying Lang Hong in Stockton, California, Maxine Hong Kingston grew up torn between her parents’ traditional East Asian culture and the culture of America. While her parents worked to support their family by operating a laundry, Kingston suffered, according to the autobiographical information in her books, much conflict over simultaneous identity as an American and a Chinese person. She addressed her struggles through writing, an activity begun at age nine. She benefited from immersion in Chinese traditional tales as she projected herself into roles of strong female figures from Chinese mythology.

Kingston earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California...

(The entire section is 299 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Born Maxine Ting Ting Hong, Kingston’s first language was Say Up, a Cantonese dialect spoken by her immigrant parents, who made their living in California by running a laundry. They struggled to retain their Chinese identity and values in a new world peopled by ominous aliens: immigration officials, teachers, non-Chinese. Kingston’s mother admonished and inspired her six children, particularly her daughters, with talks of the disasters that befell women who broke men’s rules and of legendary heroines who dared battle for justice.

Silent and wordless among “white ghosts,” Kingston was also threatened in childhood and adolescence by the specter of traditional Chinese prejudices against women. “Better to...

(The entire section is 357 words.)