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The Woman Warrior

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  19,677 Ratings  ·  1,130 Reviews
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for the best work of nonfiction in 1976.

A Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity.

Hardcover, 209 pages
Published 1989 by Vintage (first published 1975)
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Michael Finocchiaro
This was an intense book full of both women's power and violence against women set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution and the emigration of many Chinese people fleeing Mao to California. It is a mixture of autobiography and folklore and is beautifully written. Maxine Hong Kingston received the National Book Award for this book in 1977 and remains a feminist activist.

The book itself talks of the China of her parents (she was born in the US after her father emigrated in 1940) using th
Jul 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-ish
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
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
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
Jan 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  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
I've wanted to read this book for so very long and am so very glad it did not disappoint.

MHK takes the reader on an entrancing journey, mixing memory with legend and creating a novel really unlike anything I've read before. It was a really compelling look at Chinese culture and at her own experiences growing up as a daughter of Chinese immigrants. It was especially interesting because I could see aspects of my own family experience in MHK's stories, even though I have generations removed and fro
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads, mythology
"'I' is a capital and 'you' is lower-case."

This sums up the focus of Maxine's memoirs: the cultivation of a hyphenated Chinese-American self in a world full of ghosts! Can she do it without a hitch? Without struggling to cope with the conflicting demands of family, school and society?

Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜
For a book that The New York Times called "A remarkable burns the fat out of the mind. As a is dizzying, elemental, a poem turned into a sword." , I am wondering if whoever wrote the review read Richard Wright's Black Boy, not this emotionless soliloquy.

This book starts out conglomerating Chinese culture and people and ends in a similar fashion. If colleges really want to teach about Asian-American or Chinese cultures and life, I don't understand why they'd pick a memoir so
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 28, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  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"
Chitra Divakaruni
Mar 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: influences
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
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Erika B. (SOS 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
Nov 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007-08
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
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-in-print
[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
Lena Lang
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
The Woman Warrior combines Kingston's memoir of growing up in the U.S. the daughter of Chinese immigrants, her mother's story, and Chinese folklore and history. My favorite chapter, "Shaman," tells the history of how her mother became a doctor of midwifery in China, and battled ghosts in a woman's dormitory. It was hard to relate this independent ghost-fighting doctor with the mother Kingston describes, who belittled her daughters, though she's a warrior throughout. Both Kingston and her mother ...more
Mel González
“I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes.”

This was very very instructive, I can't tell you how many things I've learned about Chinese culture, myths and legends. Loved the parallel between fiction/non fiction. It's definitely a super important feminist book you should read to understand the world a bit more and to expand your mind on these things. It's a book about constructing identities and figuring out what things you want to take with
Rachel Louise Atkin
Read for uni. This was beautifully written, and I always thoroughly enjoy books that introduce me to other cultures. I think this is the first Chinese-American text I've encountered and I'm looking forward to studying it.
I think the last story was my favourite. Something about the narrative voice and idea of speech and identity really stuck a chord with me. It was quite amazing.
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

Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: college
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
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
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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...
“You can't eat straight A's.” 64 likes
“I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes.” 63 likes
More quotes…