The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

The Woman Warrior is a memoir that details the experiences and struggles of a Chinese-American girl growing up in California. The memoir is split into five parts: "No Name Woman," a story about the girls aunt who was shunned by her village after an adulterous affair, "White Tigers" which details the story of the woman warrior, Fa Mu Lan, "Shaman" relates what it is like for a woman to study in China, "At The Western Place" tells of Kingston's aunt's first journey to the US and the last story, "A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe" details Kingston's own experiences in America.

Throughout the novel the main character is torn between the Chinese culture that is exemplified by her mother and aunt and the American culture that she is surrounded by in school. She is often ridiculed by her family for being too "American" and by her schoolmates for being too "Chinese". Of course being stuck between two cultures, unsure of how to inhabit both, has it's ramifications.
"Now colors are gentler and fewer; smells are antiseptic. Now then I peek in the basement window where the villagers say the see a girl dancing like a bottle imp, I can no longer see a spirit in a skirt made of light, but a voiceless girl dancing when she thought no one was looking."
As far as memoirs go this one was creatively written. On one hand each story can stand alone but when combined, they make a powerful statement about conflicting cultures and opposing identities.


  1. Adding this to my wishlist - it sounds like something that would really interest me.

  2. This sounds interesting and similar to Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club. Have you ever read? If so, how do you think Tan's work stacks up to these memoirs?

  3. Did you like The Fifth Book of Peace? That is one book I just couldn't make it through. I really like to read Asian American authors, but there was just something about that book that I couldn't get into. I gave up about halfway through and haven't picked it up again.

    If you have read it, is this one better? I've been reluctant to pick up anything else by Kingston since The Fifth Book of Peace.

  4. Nymeth, I think you would.

    Red, I have not read The Joy Luck Club, but I've heard good things about it. I should put it on my TBR.

    Carin, I haven't read The Fifth Book of Peace so I can't really say which is better. I can say that while The Woman Warrior was creatively written for a memoir, I found myself struggling at a few parts to get through it. I'm glad I finished it because in the end it was worth it, but I'm not sure if I will pick up anything of Kingston's for awhile.