Maxine Hong Kingston Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Maxine Hong Kingston has written the novel Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book, 1989; her essays include the collection Hawai’i One Summer (1987). She acted as an adviser on a 1994 stage adaptation of her The Woman Warrior and China Men.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Maxine Hong Kingston’s accolades include the National Book Critics Circle award for best nonfiction work for The Woman Warrior in 1976, Time magazine’s listing of The Woman Warrior in its top ten nonfiction works of the decade in 1979, the American Book Award for nonfiction for China Men in 1981, inclusion of China Men in the American Library Notable Books List, the Mademoiselle magazine award in 1977, the Ainsfield-Wolf Race Relations Award in 1978, a National Education Association writing fellowship in 1980, National Endowment for the Arts Writers Awards in 1980 and 1982, a Stockton Arts Commission Award in 1981, a Hawaii Award for Literature in 1982, a Hawaii Writers Award in 1983, a PEN/West Fiction Award for Tripmaster Monkey in 1989, a California Governor’s Art Award in 1989, a Major Book Collection Award in 1990, an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in 1990, a Brandeis University National Women’s Committee award, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation grant.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

List as many historical American experiences as you can that Maxine Hong Kingston ties to the Chinese experience. She calls herself an “educator”: What do you think she is trying to teach her readers through her references to “real” historical events and her inclusion of newspaper stories?

Identify “Chinese” stories in her books that are re-creations of traditional Western stories. What do you think she is trying to do by merging different cultural traditions?

What historical instances of mainstream prejudices against immigrant peoples does Kingston point out? Does she provide any explanations for these attitudes and this behavior?

What are some of the contributions that she sees immigrants making to mainstream America, both in the past and in the present?

What different voices do you hear in Kingston’s writing? What distinguishes male from female voices? What do you think Kingston is doing with voice? How does she want readers to react to these voices?

How and why does the No Name Woman in The Woman Warrior commit suicide? Does the narrator agree with her family about No Name Woman? Whose side is she on? How do you know?

Cathy Song’s poem entitled “Lost Sister” is about another Californian of Chinese ancestry. Choose three ideas from “Lost Sister” that are also explored in Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and its the short story “No Name Woman.” How are their views of the immigrant experience similar? How are they different?

All of Kingston’s recent books include some form of protest against or criticism of war. What personal effects of war does she find to be scarring the lives of Americans? What antidotes to war does she offer readers?

Choose two examples of Kingston merging personal biographical realities with her fictional characters. What is the effect of doing so?


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

Cheung, King-Kok. Articulate Silences: Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993. A discussion of all three authors’ use of what Cheung terms “double-voiced discourse” as they demonstrate the arbitrary nature of “truth” and “history” through appropriation and subversion of their culture’s dominant discourse.

Gao, Yan. The Art of Parody: Maxine Hong Kingston’s Use of Chinese Sources. New York: Peter Lang, 1996. Discusses all of Kingston’s works, emphasizing her skill in avoiding mythological stereotypes as she adapts Chinese stories to shape her vision of American culture.

Huntley, E. D. Maxine Hong Kingston: A Critical Companion. Greenwood, 2001. A guide to the novels.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. Conversations with Maxine Hong Kingston, edited by Paul Skenazy and Tera Martin. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998. Collection of interviews of Kingston by various interviewers.

Ludwig, Sami. Concrete Language: Intercultural Communication in Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior” and Ishmael Reed’s “Mumbo Jumbo.” Cross Cultural Communication 2. New York: Peter Lang, 1996. This study of intercultural communication includes a bibliography.

Simmons, Diane. Maxine Hong Kingston. New York: Twayne, 1999. Complete biography, discussion of works, chronology, conversations with Kingston, and bibliography.

Skandera-Trombley, Laura, ed. Critical Essays on Maxine Hong Kingston. New York: G. K. Hall, 1998. An interesting and informative collection made all the more valuable by the inclusion of an interview with, and a statement by, Kingston that elucidates her view of the critical reception of her works.

Smith, Jeanne Rosier. Writing Tricksters: Mythic Gambols in American Ethnic Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Discusses Kingston’s three major works as focused on Chinese trickster myths and figures, particularly the monkey, stressing the trickster nature of Kingston’s narrative itself, which remains subversive and paradoxical.

Wong, Sau-Ling Cynthia, ed. Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior”: A Casebook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. A collection of essay that includes discussion of Kingston’s reception in China.