Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Woman Warrior

Just finished reading Maxine Hong Kingston's The Warrior Woman: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. Truely an exceptional work of poetry, autobiography, prose, memory, folklore, and history. Interesting to fit her work into the history of Chinese immigration to the United States.
One of my favorite passages:
This was one of the tamer, more modern stories, mere introduction. My mother told others that followed swordswomen through woods and palaces for years. Night after night my mother would talk-story until we fell asleep. I couldn't tell where the stories left off and the dreams began, her voice the voice of the heroines in my sleep. And on Sundays, from noon to midnight, we went to the movies at the Confucius Church. We saw swordswomen jump over houses from a standstill; they didn't even need a running start.

At last I saw that I too had been in the presence of great power, my mother talking- story. After I grew up, I heard the chant of Fa Mu Lan, the girl who took her father's place in battle. Instantly I remembered that as a child I had followed my mother about the house, the two of us singing about how Fa Mu Lan fought gloriously and returned alive from war to settle in the village. I had forgotten this chant that was once mine, given me by my mother, who may not have known its power to remind. She said I would grow up a wife and a slave, but she taught me the song of a warrior women, Fa Mu Lan. I would have to grow up a warrior woman.

Truely amazing. Can't wait to read China Men.

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