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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

16. The Search For Identity

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Toni Cade Bambara
- Sandra Cisneros
- Judith Ortiz Cofer
- Leslie Feinberg
- Diane Glancy
- Maxine Hong Kingston
- David Mamet
- Toni Morrison
- Thomas Pynchon
- Alice Walker
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Maxine Hong Kingston (b. 1940)

Author Maxine Hong Kingston
[7437] Eric Risberg, Author Maxine Hong Kingston (2001), courtesy of the Associated Press.

Maxine Hong Kingston Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Maxine Hong Kingston, née Maxine Ting Hong, was born in Stockton, California, to Chinese immigrant parents who left successful careers in China to raise their children in the United States. Her fiction thematically deals almost exclusively with her heritage as a Chinese American woman, including the struggles of trying to balance her parents' cultural values with American customs and expectations. It also more broadly addresses the challenge for all Americans of living in a country in which so many different cultures coexist. Kingston combines fact and fiction in her writing, culling from her mother's stories about China while adding elements of history, legend, autobiography, and "outsider" observation.

While most famous for her first novel, the 1976 National Book Critics Circle award-winning The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, which addresses the complex issues facing Chinese American women, Kingston also wrote a companion novel, China Men, that does the same for Chinese American men. Kingston is adept at weaving China's oral tradition of storytelling into her fiction, but her fiction says as much about mainstream America as it does about Chinese Americans. She is also a keen observer of the ways people interact with and judge each other and, like Toni Morrison, provides provocative critiques of how people from all ethnic groups are guilty of stereotyping rather than sincerely trying to know each other.

In Tripmaster Monkey, Kingston returns to the locale of her college days, Berkeley, California, to tell the story of a struggling Chinese American playwright. We see in the sometimes-disagreeable character Wittman Ah Sing that Kingston is not afraid to tackle complicated issues that may cause some discomfort for readers both within and outside of Chinese American communities. Kingston's stories are not only for or about Chinese Americans: she strives to create literature that illuminates what it means to be an American, period, and as such resonates with readers from any ethnic group.

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