Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Woman Warrior: Memoirs Of A Girlhood Among Ghosts” as Want to Read:
The Woman Warrior: Memoirs Of A Girlhood Among Ghosts
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs Of A Girlhood Among Ghosts

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  15,991 ratings  ·  884 reviews
The Woman Warrior is a pungent, bitter, but beautifully written memoir of growing up Chinese American in Stockton, California. Maxine Hong Kingston (China Men) distills the dire lessons of her mother's mesmerizing "talk-story" tales of a China where girls are worthless, tradition is exalted and only a strong, wily woman can scratch her way upward. The author's America is a ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 209 pages
Published 1977 by Penguin (first published 1975)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Woman Warrior, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Woman Warrior

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
4.5 stars

The Swordswoman of Words

The Woman Warrior is Maxine Hong Kingston's own story of growing up Chinese-American, an irreconcilable position for her as the two cultures would seemingly clash, unable to provide her with a stable sense of identity. She grew up confused by the ideas and behavior of her parents and the villagers who had settled in Stockton, California, who saw their American-born children as very strange - not really Chinese. Her parents hoped one day to return the whole family
Probably most intriguing about the structure of Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, beginning with "No Name Woman” and ending in A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe,” is that it characterizes Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir, told in the interesting format of non-sequential episodes, as one that begins in oppressed silence but ends in universal song.

When looking at the three woman warrior figures in the book – her aunt, the No Name Woman; the rewritten legendary warrior in “White Tigers” (based upo
Jan 31, 2008 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those into good writing, post-modernism/ genre-bending, cultural syncretism, or women's lit
Recommended to Mary by: Jim Reed and Patricia Brooke
I think I read almost this entire book with my jaw dropped. Maxine Hong Kingston has an incredible ability to say so much, so brilliantly, within every single phrase. The structure of her memoir speaks to all three of her identifications - Chinese/ American/ Woman - merging fiction with non-fiction and her own story with those of relatives and mythic heroines, to create a piece that represents her own immersion in a culture far better than a more traditional autobiography or memoir ever could. S ...more
I'm writing this review up from my notes unfortunately, as I read it when I was too busy to sit down and type. It's one of the best memoirs I've ever read, marked by sensitivity, sorrow, unresolvable conflict transformed into a breathtaking work of art, an epic canvas unrolling intricacies and intimacies that made me miss my tube stop, get the wrong train, mix up bus routes, so absorbed was I by the character of Brave Orchid, the narrator's mother. This woman she admires and fears and at times f ...more
Zen Cho
Mmm, not a huge fan. Ought to write up a thinky review, with lots of discussion of representation and acknowledgment that it's unfair to expect every Chinese-American writer to describe the entire Chinese(-American) experience, but I am too lazy to do that right now. I think most of my issues with this book would've been solved if Hong Kingston stopped saying "Chinese blah blah blah", as if all Chinese people were one great homogeneous block and did the same thing, all the time and everywhere. ( ...more
I feel conflicted about this book. It is the first book by an Asian American writer accepted into the American canon (the first to be taught in universities etc.). And it has kind of an empowering message I guess. But her depiction of Asianness is so damn annoying. I had a prof who excuses it with this passage where Kingston has her grandma say something like, "do you really believe all these stories I tell you about China? they're just stories." how does that little paragraph excuse an entire b ...more
I couldn't tell, and I don't think the publisher could either, whether this book was fiction or not. It is called a memoir, but on the back of my copy, it says fiction, yet it won an award for nonfiction. I know an author has creative license, especially with a memoir, but the realistic chapters placed next to fantasy ones made the book too disjointed for me and I couldn't get into it. It didn't challenge my thoughts of what a memoir is, I liked the fact that she incorporated dreams from her chi ...more
Ron Nie
I just reread this for an assignment at school. I loved this in undergrad and was pleased that it held up to a reread. There's loads and loads to unpack in this book: relationships between mothers and daughters, MHK's experiences growing up with a hybrid identity, the story of No Name Woman and her ghostliness, the relationship between folklore, autobiography, and realism, and the legend of Fa Mu Lan, that shadows over the whole text. . Also the writing is stunning. Daaaaang Maxine.
This such a
The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts was all about the narrator's struggle to find her her identity. Being a Chinese-American, the author is trying to figure out who she is and what made her that person. What confused me about the book was that the title calls it a memoir, but parts of it are fiction. This made me think more about genre and how much imagination can go into a memoir, and how much of the author's real-life experience goes into fiction. How much of life is real an ...more
Nov 28, 2007 Madeline rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who's bored and wants to think about obvious themes in a fairly entertaining way
Shelves: fiction, non-fiction
i read this for school. obviously. i do not read books with titles like this in my own time. i hear that in the 90's this was the book most taught in universities.

the poor 90's.

the themes are obvious: mother/daughter relations are difficult. merging cultures is difficult. trying to find your voice is difficult.

i do, however, commend the merging of genres, because the whole fiction/non-fiction thing is pretty ridiculous in my opinion. (is it not all fiction?) the narrative gives way from "memoir"
This was an eye-opening look at Chinese American culture when I read it in the early-80s. It was a real soul-baring treatise of a life very, very unlike my own. So honest, yet so unbelievable. Appreciated so much the way Kingston portrayed traditional beliefs from across the ocean as a part of her family's American experience in modern San Francisco.

A classic work for young Americans struggling to bridge generational differences both cultural and in general.
A memoir of a Chinese-American woman of her experiences growing up in an immigrant family in Sacramento, and the tremendous weight and power of the mythical China her mother enveloped her in, her view of herself, stubborn and real, overlaid with her mother's Chinese sense of the worth of a girl (not much, and yet, the stories of the warrior girl makes us question that). Fascinating to reread a book so bold and new in form and content when it was first published in 1976, a moment women authors an ...more
Erika B. (Snogging on Sunday Books)
"You must not tell anyone," my mother said, "what I am about to tell you. In China your father had a sister who killed herself. She jumped into the family well. We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born."

I thought this book was amazing! So fantastic! Kingston instantly draws you in with her first line (above). I loved her story about being a Chinese-American and trying to find a culture that fit her. I would read this book for the first two chapters alo
I quite liked this book. The writing was beautifully descritive and fitted well with the overall theme of the book. I think it really conveyed the Chinese American experience in that it showed a world where people are trying to make their way in a new world while still tethered to tradition.

I also really enjoyed the way the concept of tradition was handled. On the one hand, Hong describes the all reaching confucian patriarchy that shaped women's lives in China. The way female infanticide, lack
I wish we had read this in sophomore year of high school instead of Catcher in the Rye. This book is an amazing, lyrically written book about growing up as a girl between two cultures, neither of which is particularly empowering to adolescent girls. What I didn't like about the school system teaching Catcher in the Rye as a 'universal story of adolescence' was because I felt it was a very masculine story of adolescence--the things Holden does (punch walls, order a prostitute, be overly protectiv ...more
Chitra Divakaruni
An excellent book. I read this memoir of growing up Chinese American in California in graduate school, and was deeply moved by it. I particularly appreciated Hong Kingston's intertwining of ancient myth and contemporary immigrant challenges. Beautiful, powerful language. The first chapter, No Name Woman, about the terrible fate of a pregnant aunt in China, is unforgettable. This book, more than any other, made me believe my immigrant stories were also worth telling. This book, more than any othe ...more
[3.5 stars]

After experiencing Kingston’s writing in China Men two months back, when I saw the opportunity to read The Woman Warrior next, I was excited to begin reading. The premise of China Men didn’t appeal to me as much and, perhaps because of that, it was slightly boring for me, but The Woman Warrior was a much better read now that I knew what to expect from Kingston.

The Woman Warrior does what China Men did best, which is to blend and fuse fact with fiction with an expertise I’ve only exper
Once when I was a kid some extended family came over and someone broke out Trivial Pursuit. Even though I was maybe 8, I got to be in on it because we were playing teams. Then I noticed the box stated the game was actually for ages "12 and up"--or whatever the number was--point is, I was below it. As a kid I believed this written statement to be LAW, and breaking the law was the worst thing you could do. I seem to remember bringing up my legal concerns and being unsatisfactorily brushed off. I w ...more
Abbe Review

The Woman Warrior is a pungent, bitter, but beautifully written memoir of growing up Chinese American in Stockton, California. Maxine Hong Kingston (


Maxine Hong Kingston grew up in two worlds. There was "solid America," the place her parents emigrated to, and the China of her mother's "talk-stories." In talk-stories women were warriors and her mother was still a doctor in China who could cure the sick and scare away ghosts, not a harried and frustrated woman running a

How could I not love a book titled The Woman Warrior? I read this for a women's literature class in college, probably around 1995. It's part memoir, part folklore -- weaving together stories from Kingston's family, from ancient China, and from her life into a larger narrative about what the lives of women mean. My favorite part was the story of Fa Mu Lan (which later would become the basis for a Disney film, sigh). When I read this, we didn't yet have Buffy or her cultural offspring, were maybe ...more
I'm not sure that I've read anything quite like this book before. A collection of five stories, memoirs, woven with Chinese folktales and all slightly different in their construction. I can see why it doesn't quite fit into a specific genre. I'd never heard of Maxine Hong Kingston until recently and although I think this text is taught text in America, I don't think it's well known in England. I'm really glad that I discovered it though, as I was mesmerised by the different stories, learning abo ...more
Feb 01, 2008 Maria rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maria by: Christine
I give up on this one. It was so hard for me to get through, and I can't figure out why. There are several short stories, which may be something I am not used to, or the fact that there is some fantastical writing in it and some hilarious things, too (old Chinese women following young kids around and talking out loud in description "and now she puts the spiders in the bowl and turns them on. Her eyes light up!") It's pretty good writing, but I just couldn't get into it and basically dragged my w ...more
Before there was The Joy Luck Club, there was The Woman Warrior. Part memoir, part epic fantasy, this book chronicles the life of a Chinese-American girl growing up in the 1950's. This was a fascinating read, one that I couldn't put down. I felt sorry for the daughter who was struggling to find her place among the Americans, but also sorry for the mother who missed her country. If you like Amy Tan novels, then I highly recommend this book.
I have mentioned earlier that I wasn’t able to place this book within a genre, and now I just believe it doesn’t really have one. Kingston seems to believe the same; that the boundaries of memoir/autobiography/novel, more often than not, crisscross and meld through her writing. Her characters are not really fiction, but never entirely real. The merging of the real experience and the fictive one is so simples and unnoticeable, we’re left to wonder about the “facts”.

A most remarkable thing about t
I'd had this book on my to-read list since 2011, when it was one of the picks for Feminist Classics Book Club, and I had no idea what to expect. The book is hard to categorize, being a mixture of memoir, folktales, and creative imaginings. At the heart is Maxine Hong Kingston's struggle to define herself and to reconcile her identity with her Chinese family history and her experiences growing up in America in the 1950s-70s. The "ghosts" in the title refers to actual spirits, Kingston's ancestors ...more
A captivating book that turned every which way – page after page the words shape-shifted from fact to fantasy and back again, all the while catching at underlying truths. I felt immersed in the childhood world of a Chinese American girl, but the “ghosts” that haunted her have names in every language.
Arpita  Bhuyan
The way Kingston blends Chinese folklore with her own memories as a first generation Chinese-American to tell the story of her childhood is absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. No description of mine can do justice to what Kingston has tried to weave. Amazing, amazing read!
so so good. beautifully written, part folklore and memoir and the straddle between two identities. The beginning starts off very hauntingly and tells the story of a no name woman which expands the discussion of how women are viewed in the chinese culture and society at its core. We then get inside the story of Fa Mu Lan. This memoir also greatly explores the complex relationships between mother and daughter. We dive deep into the silences that MHK deals with and all of the ghosts throughout her ...more
Another amazing memoir! One third poem, one third fable, and one third memoir. Terrifyingly dark, Maxine Hong Kingston spares no one, least of all herself, in her portrayal of female strength and betrayal in Chinese and Chinese-American culture. This was flat-out uncomfortable to read at times, and kept me squirming in my seat throughout. Disturbing and gorgeous. What did the NYT blurb say about it on the back? "Dizzying." Yep.
If you are not heard, you don't exist. You become a ghost. That is why you need to story-talk - to be. And to be sane, you have to be able to change your stories. Only mad men keeps saying the same old story.

In The Woman Warrior, we meet a child who is trying to negotiate between the sane and the insane, between the story and the reality, between myth and history, between a Chinese Fresh-of-the-Boat (FOB) culture and the mixed American culture with all its differences. She is shaped as much by t
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
500 Great Books B...: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts - Maxine Hong Kingston 5 20 Nov 11, 2015 06:19PM  
2015: The Year of...: The Woman Warrior 8 34 Aug 16, 2015 09:10PM  
woman warrior 4 55 Nov 25, 2014 07:14PM  
AHS English RY1-A...: "White Tiger" 13 31 Mar 14, 2013 10:03PM  
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter
  • No-No Boy
  • Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People
  • Charlie Chan is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction
  • Typical American
  • Bone
  • The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker
  • Native Speaker
  • Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans
  • Memories of a Catholic Girlhood
  • Ceremony
  • Yell-Oh Girls!: Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian American
  • Dictee
  • American Knees
  • Nisei Daughter
  • Monkey Bridge
  • Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
  • Brothers and Keepers: A Memoir
She was born as Maxine Ting Ting Hong to a laundry house owner in Stockton, California. She was the third of eight children, and the first among them born in the United States. Her mother trained as a midwife at the To Keung School of Midwifery in Canton. Her father had been brought up a scholar and taught in his village of Sun Woi, near Canton. Tom left China for America in 1924 and took a job in ...more
More about Maxine Hong Kingston...

Share This Book

“You can't eat straight A's.” 49 likes
“I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes.” 43 likes
More quotes…