The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston enchantingly swirls to life through actor Ming-Na’s spirited reading. A modern classic that was originally published in 1975, The Woman Warrior is perfectly suited for audio production as the author brilliantly cloaked her childhood memories and family history in the rich brocade of Chinese folklore and superstition. Reality and folk tales became interwoven as Kingston, the child of Chinese immigrants, simply had no other way to figure out the world except through stories told to her by her mother and Kingston’s own maturing awareness.
Ming-Na captures it all: the folklore ghosts, the family secret ghosts, and the ghosts who symbolized all that was new, confusing, and sometimes terrifying about life in America for Kingston’s parents. There is a deep well from which to draw: a story that the author created to honor an aunt whose name had never been spoken after she shamed the family in China, the sometimes comical but distressingly painful story of another aunt’s descent into mental illness after she simply could not transform from Chinese villager to Los Angeles-based American grandmother, and finally the piercing, heartbreaking tirade as teenaged Maxine unleashes a lifetime of pent-up confusion and anger at her Chinese mother. Through it all Ming-Na astounds and entertains and perfectly characterizes the author as she grows from a small child with a child’s sensibilities and impatience to the complex adult and gifted writer Kingston became.
The variety of characters in The Woman Warrior will have all who enjoy this selection certain that more than one performer is interpreting the book. Like the work itself, Ming-Na creates a wonderfully enjoyable illusion. Carole Chouinard
Acclaimed author Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior broke new ground when it was first published 35 years ago, weaving autobiography, history, folklore, and fantasy in to a candid and revelatory story about the daughter of Chinese immigrants in mid-20th century California.
Now in audio for the first time, The Woman Warrior is read by television and movie star Ming-Na (ER, Mulan) in a performance that captures the book’s amazing spectrum of hope, longing, fear, and strength.
Kingston, winner of the National Book Award and National Humanities Medal, beautifully mixes reality and fantasy in relating her experience growing up a stranger in America and an outsider to her family’s history in China. Thanks to the author’s unique storytelling style and voice, this book remains one of the most commonly taught college texts in America. Hear it performed here for the first time.
This is a story about the collision of cultural across time. A generic 7th century culture collides with a generic 20th century culture.
Of course, time and place are interconnected. If the 20th century is the “American Century” then the 7th century (and maybe the 8th and 9th centuries as well) disserve(s) to be called the “Tang Century(s)”. So this is also about the collision of Chinese Village culture on the cusp of modernity and American culture near the maximum of its rate of ascendancy..
It seems to me like this book should be studied in literature classes as a quintessential example of the modern literacy style. It is a non-linearly collection of stories each of which plays with the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. It deliberately bends the distinction between autobiography and social commentary. It talks about ordinary people to make points about Great civilizations. It tells the most painful stories of desperation and betrayal as humor (although the humor is probably sharper if you are in fact Chinese). It toys with many of the other classical demarcations in literature (perhaps all of the classical demarcations) and yet manages to not feel (too much) like a teenager rebelling against tradition for the sake of rebellion. It is worth reading just to improve one's taste for high art.
It is dated. It’s usually different for Chinese born after Deng Xiaoping. But it’s a must read for understanding older Chinese women.
I have a ratings monetary policy problem. Too many of my ratings are 5 star, and too often, as in this case, I feel the need to give 6 stars. Perhaps I need to give more 4 star ratings so I save some room at the top.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
This book doesn't follow any linear time line as a memoir might be expected to. It reads more like a series of vaguely related novellas. Most of the book doesn't even seem to be directly about the author, so much so that when she does begin to talk about her childhood at the end I found myself wondering where she thought she was going with it. This might not be the most anthropologically accurate picture of Chinese immigrants during the 50's or even of the author's own family, it's hard to tell, but it is interesting. The stories are entertaining and really that's the most important part.
9 of 11 people found this review helpful
Really well done mixture of poetic fable and fiction. Might I add that the best fiction is informed by nonfiction? You get a lot of that here too. Readers new to Chinese history will be inspired to research the fantastic classic tales this book introduces and weaves in with modern narrative.
i liked the talk stories, but struggled following the story of the narrator at times. I had a lot of unanswered questions at the end but I think so did the narrator, if you realize how her upbringing was in the novel.
Where does The Woman Warrior rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Top, one of the best. A new cultural awareness was gained
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Woman Warrior?
I loved the actress reading the book. I think she must have done it perfectly. I was very moved at the passages where we heard Maxine comment on the stories as a young person in CA growing up Chinese-American in 60s/70s.
Which character – as performed by Ming-Na – was your favorite?
all were well done
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
loved Kingston's anger
This book was recommended by a writer, but it certainly was not to my liking. The many stories were confusing by mixing reality with day dreams and visions.
2 of 5 people found this review helpful
Ming Na's voice sometimes made me irritated and had to turn off the my Kindle. Otherwise, the book was just ok.
1 of 7 people found this review helpful
What would have made The Woman Warrior better?
I agree with the review above: The actress who narrates the story has an extremely annoying voice. Ming-Na also had the tendency to exaggerate or emphasize segments or phrases as if she is unaware of what she is reading. The narrating voice appears to have no understanding of what is significant in the material being read or regarding the characters as they are depicted (to which Ming-Na ascribes personalities contrary to their depiction, by way of her curious voice alterations). Her choices seem completely arbitrary.I could only take so much before needing a break from listening from to Ming-Na's excessively histrionic voice.
Would you be willing to try another book from Maxine Hong Kingston? Why or why not?
Any additional comments?
Also, this book IS frequently taught in college lit classes, as someone above suggested. I am re-reading it because I have to teach it again this week. Two classes that I know of (Ethnic Lit and a Creative Writing class) in the English department list the memoir as a required book in just this semester.
0 of 3 people found this review helpful