Admittedly, The Woman Warrior is an odd book. It’s also a book that’s rarely spoken about at least in the various bookish worlds I belong to. And that is a shame. The only reason I know about it is that I had a couple of college professors who adored Kingston’s work and taught this novel. All that aside, I can see how some readers might find it difficult to connect with.
TWW resides in the nonfiction/memoir section of the library, but is told through an nontraditional narrative. It’s more anecdotal than linear – very episodic in nature – and Kingston often derails from reality to explore Chinese myths and legends as metaphorical stand-ins for literal truth. At its foundation, TWW explores Kingston’s childhood as a first generation Chinese-Amercian girl growing up in California. She battles reconciling her parents’ culture with that of the people and the country she actually lives in – particularly as a female.
Told in five or so sections instead of traditional chapters, you’ll enjoy some parts far more than others. This book isn’t something you can read lightly and works best in an academic setting as the writing can be dense in theme, symbolism, and metaphor. So I’d advise reading TWW when you’re in the mood to truly absorb the stories being told.
As a feminist work, TWW is terrific. So interesting to see how women are represented in two cultures and the struggles Kingston must face since she has a foot in each of these worlds. You’ll also learn so much about Chinese culture, history, and perception. I’d have loved to read a novel told through her mother’s eyes in comparison. So fascinating.
What I most appreciate about TWW is Kingston’s brutal honesty about herself and others. She doesn’t romanticize her mother, relatives, Americans, China, or even herself. Sometimes her childhood experiences are hard to read and sometimes they’re funny as hell. So the next time you’re in the mood to learn or explore a unique take on feminism, TWW might definitely be for you!