Maxine Hong Kingston was born on October 27th, 1940, in Stockton, California. She graduated with a BA in English from UC Berkeley in 1962, and later she wrote her first nonfiction novel, The Woman Warrior, which was published in 1967 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award (Poetry Foundation). Since then, Kingston has wrote numerous other nonfiction works and novels on her experiences as a Chinese American and a woman: National Book Award-winner China Men (1980), Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1989), To Be the Poet (2002), and The Fifth Book of Peace (2003). Her most recent work, “I Love a Broad Margin to my Life” (2011), is a book-length poem that was inspired by Walt Whitman and shifts "between real and imagined time, tracing the writer’s journey" (Poetry Foundation).
Kingston is an fierce advocate for feminism and writes on her frustrating experiences as a Chinese American. In the autobiographical work The Woman Warrior, Kingston grapples between loving and honoring her Chinese heritage, as seen in the relationship she has with her mother, and despising her confusing inability to voice her opinions and beliefs as an autonomous being of value. As stated from the National Endowment for the Arts website, Kingston's works have “examined how the past influences our present, and her voice has strengthened our understanding of Asian American identity, helping shape our national conversation about culture, gender, and race” (National Endowment for the Arts). Indeed, Kingston has left her mark in the literary world and has further breached unsaid barriers blocking conversations needed for healing from generational trauma that stems from colonization, misogyny, and patriarchal control. In her lifetime, Kingston has collected many achievements, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, the PEN West Award for Fiction, the National Book Award, a National Humanities Medal, and the title of "Living Treasure of Hawai'i" (National Endowment for the Arts). She is a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley and lives in Oakland, California.
"When we Chinese girls listened to the adults talk-story, we learned that we failed if we grew up to be but wives or slaves. We could be heroines, swordswomen. Even if she had to rage across all China, a swordswoman got even with anybody who hurt her family. Perhaps women were once so dangerous that they had to have their feet bound" (Kingston 19).
Kingston, Maxine H. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Childhood Among Ghosts. Vintage International, 1989.
“Maxine Hong Kingston.” National Endowment for the Arts, https://www.arts.gov/honors/medals/maxine-hong-kingston.
“Maxine Hong Kingston.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/maxine-hong-kingston
Andrea Wagner is a English Literature and Rhetoric graduate student, a Penumbra editor/frequent contributor, and a writing tutor for Stanislaus State University.