Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Maxine Hong Kingston

Maxine Hong Kingston. Photo by Michael Lionstar

This week's podcast focuses on author, Maxine Hong Kingston. Kingston is a pioneering author who in many ways cleared the path for both ethnic and women’s literature. In language that is lyrical and poetic, she looks at the complications of leaving one country for another, often weaving strands of Chinese folk stories and myths---like the tale of the great woman warrior Fa Mu Lan---throughout her work.

A recipient of two NEA Literature Fellowships,  Kingston won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award in 1976 for her first book, The Woman Warrior;  her second, China Men, won 1981’s National Book Award. Kingston’s greatest legacy, however, is her lasting impact on literature. As author Julia Alvarez has said, “I think Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior really was a moment in which the mainstream culture said 'This is beautiful. This is lyrical. This is American literature…. This is part of who we are, these stories of people that have come from somewhere else, and along with everything else that they’ve brought they brought their stories.'”

Although today, ethnic and immigrant writing fills the bookshelves, that was not the case in the 1970s when Kingston began writing The Woman Warrior. She had to figure out how, as a Chinese-American woman, to write herself and an Asian oral tradition into American culture. [2:57]

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