||Maxine Hong Kingston (1940-)|
"Power comes from the heart, and the mind."
As a female Chinese writer, Maxine Hong Kingston always questioned traditional thought, and in particular, the role of women in Chinese society. Today she remains an acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction writing. Her work in literature has won her as much fame as it has criticism. She remains an enduring Chinese novelist, and her highly feministic overtones continue play a powerful role in bridging the gaps between old and new Chinese values.
Maxine Hong was born on October 27, 1940, in Stockton California. Her father taught in a local village, and her mother studied medicine and midwifery. Although the Hong's were a well-educated family, Maxine's father left China for America in search of work. Tom, Maxine's father, worked in a laundry for 15 years before sending for his family. Eventually, the Hong's settled into the city of Stockton, California, where Maxine was the firstborn of six new children. Eventually the Hong family opened a laundry business, and everyone in the family worked hard to ensure its success.
As a child Kingston often listened to her mother tell tales of Ancient China. Later, Kingston would often incorporate these tales into her literary works. Many of these stories her mother told her while working in the Laundry after school. Kingston often had to express herself differently when among others. In her early schooling Kingston spoke almost no English, and often drew out pictures in order articulate herself. In her own words, Kingston described her young self as "studious" and "quiet". At an early age she fell in love with reading, and although she excelled mainly in math, Kingston decided to pursue her interests in Literature. It seemed that from an early age literature and story telling fascinated Kingston. From this point on, Literature would become her life's ambition.
Claim to Fame
In 1962, after graduating from University of California at Berkeley, Maxine Hong married Earll Kingston. She met Earll while playing a part in Bertolt Brecht's play "Galileo". In the following years Kingston taught at a high school in Hayward, California. She also remained an advocate for peace, often protesting in marches against the United States involvement in Vietnam. Kingston spent 17 years in Hawaii, where she taught in public and private schools. While in Hawaii, Kingston began work on a manuscript entitled "The Woman Warrior". The novel was a tremendous success, and in 1976, won the Nation Books Critics Circle Award for nonfiction. The novel received favorable reviews and a number of awards.
Others could only dream of having the same kind of success Kingston had achieved. Her books dazzled readers, critics, and often hit the bestsellers lists. Kingston's novel's, "Tripmaster Monkey" and "China Men", enthrall new readers. Many see Kingston's work as powerful image that interweaves Chinese and American cultures. Kingston however also remained a well-educated woman. In addition to her books, Kingston has also written poetry, poems, and articles for magazines and newspapers. During the Mid-1980's, Kingston returned to Oakland, California to teach English at Berkeley. Unfortunately, in a fire Kingston lost her 4th novel, which was to be the sequel to "Tripmaster Monkey". She continues in her writing, and after having lost her 4th manuscript, continues to tackle the rewrite.
The Peaceful Writer
Maxine Hong Kingston once stated that if she could change one thing about her writing it would be the element of war she wrote about early in her career. One part of Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" told a tale of Fa Mu Lan, a warring girl that devoured her enemies. Kingston no longer believes that war is an appropriate metaphor in her message. As a person, she promotes peace, striving to win the opposing forces she writes about by using words instead of swords. In her mind, "power comes from the heart, and the mind". Kingston has financially supported liberal groups, and has also marched in protest against incident in Tiananmen Square. At one point in time, Maxine and her Husband Earll became ordained ministers in the Universal Life Church. In her leisure time Kingston enjoys life's simple pleasures. As always she enjoys reading, gardening, and studying Zen Buddhism.
As a writer Kingston's work continues to be enjoyed by readers from all backgrounds. Her book "The Woman Warrior" is taught in high school and college courses throughout North America. Her novels have been published in several languages, everything from English to Hebrew. Her books have helped many to understand the social and cultural difficulties a foreigner can face when placed outside his or her normal environment. "Above all, it has given readers a better understanding of the contributions of the Chinese to the early development of the United States."