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Understanding Maxine Hong Kingston

Julia H Lee



Published: Feb 28 2018


Published: Feb 28 2018

OA Ebook
Published: Feb 28 2018


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

The first book-length work to examine the entirety of Kingston's unique literary career

Maxine Hong Kingston is known for using a distinctive blend of autobiography, fantasy, and folklore to explore the history, experience, and identity of Chinese Americans. This is exemplified in her first book, The Woman Warrior, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction, a bestseller, and a staple on college and university syllabi. Although The Woman Warrior is by far her most celebrated book, Kingston has penned a wide range of essays, fiction, and poetry, including China Men, Tripmaster Monkey, Hawai'i One Summer, To Be a Poet, The Fifth Book of Peace, I Love a Broad Margin to My Life, and the edited volume Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace.

Understanding Maxine Hong Kingston is the first book-length work to examine the entirety of Kingston's literary career, from The Woman Warrior to her most recent volume of poetry. Julia H. Lee weaves together scholarly assessments, interviews, biographical information, and her own critical analysis to provide a complete and complex picture of Kingston's works and its impact on memoir, feminist fiction, Asian American literature, and postmodern literature.

Lee examines the influence that previous generations of Asian American authors, feminism, and antiwar activism have had on Kingston's work. Offering important contextual information about Kingston's life, Lee shows how it has so often served as a starting point for Kingston's writing. Also studied are her complex attitudes toward genre, and her ever-evolving identity as a novelist, essayist, memoirist, and poet. A comprehensive bibliography of critical secondary sources will be an invaluable resource for readers and critics of Kingston's works.

Julia H. Lee is an associate professor of Asian American studies at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of Interracial Encounters: Reciprocal Representations in African and Asian American Literatures, 1896–1937.

"A fresh, integrative synthesis of Maxine Hong Kingston's diverse oeuvre that newly establishes for our times why Kingston still is the founding figure of post-60s Asian American letters. Lee skillfully incorporates the history of Kingston criticism into this overview of her major and minor works, while contributing an original and compelling interpretation of the key textual puzzles identified with them."—Colleen Lye, University of California, Berkeley

"A lucid and penetrating study that not only places Kingston's oeuvre in the context of the lives of the author and her family but also puts her seven books in intimate conversation with one another, deepening our appreciation of the famous works and beckoning us toward other nuggets."—King-Kok Cheung, University of California, Los Angeles

"A foundational figure, Maxine Hong Kingston occupies a rightful place as one of the most important writers in the contemporary American literary canon. Julia H. Lee's impactful, impressive treatment of the author's oeuvre—along with her sophisticated attention to the considerable amount of criticism it has generated—is both critical tribute and scholarly testament to why Kingston still matters."—Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, University of Connecticut

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