Woman Warrior: Fiction? Non-fiction?

Posted on: November 23, 2008


When I read first few pages of the book Woman Warrior by Maxine Kingston, I was simply lost. When I finally thought I got the thread, I realized a whole new story has changed to a new topic. I couldn’t stop thinking “Is this a true story or not? How could Kingston talk about her aunt’s story if she never knew her? Am I supposed to believe this part?” The questions kept on popping up in my head and I was worried that I might be the only one who doesn’t get the story.

However, I realized I have no need to be worried after reading this article from It says that Woman Warrios does not have a distinct genre that we can give. Let’s consider this line from the article: “At various times it has been described as a memoir, an autobiography, a novel, a manifesto; yet anyone who spends 10 minutes with it understands that none of these labels really apply.” This means the book has bits that are fictional and autobiographical. It is hard to draw a boundary line because Kingston bases her imagination about her mother and aunt from real stories she heard. She jumps from her real memories to her speculations without telling the readers which part is real and which part if fictional.

Maybe all of these confusion was intended. Maybe Kingston wanted the reader to pay extreme attention while reading her book. She might have thought all of those speculations, even thought they never happened, are part of who she is, so they deserve to be in her autobiography. She probably doesn’t have any right information about her aunt, but she made imaginary aunt in her speculations, and behaved according to the thought she had. Thus, it makes sense that speculations are large part of her personality. Kingston also might have intended the confusion to draw readers’ interest in Chinese culture. Unfamiliar wordings and senteces add to the mysterious atmosphere of Chinese culture and make the readers want to find out and understand more about China.

Whatever the reason behind making this book an ambiguous-genre, Kingston surely drawed attention by using different style of literature.  She tried a whole new experiment with her writings, and this experiment succeeded in making her book unique. It may be bothersome for bookstore keepers to choose a category to place this book, but it is worth reading such an odd and non-genre book.


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  • Alice: Very insightful. I shall take your advice :]
  • Mr WordPress: Hi, this is a comment.To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts' comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.


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