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Conversations with Maxine Hong Kingston

Edited by Paul Skenazy

Edited by Tera Martin

256 pp.

1578060591 Paper $30.00S

Paper, $30.00

I am saying, 'No, we're not outsiders, we belong here, this is our country, this is our history, and we are a part of America.... If it weren't for us, America would be a different place.'"

In 1976 Maxine Hong Kingston burst into American literature with the publication of The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. Since then her subsequent works--China Men (1980) and Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1989)--have startled readers with their complex projections of Asian-American life as a bicultural and bilingual adventure filled with contemporary confusions and ancient legends, inherited values, and new loyalties. Kingston has written of her family upbringing in Stockton, California, of the stories her mother told her as advice and warning, of her father's illegal arrival in the United States, of the exploits of grandfathers who worked on the rails in California, of San Francisco street life in the 1960s, and of traditional Chinese legends. Whatever her subject, she claims America for herself and other Asian Americans whose histories are an essential part of the larger American tapestry.

In this collection of interviews Kingston talks about her life, her writing, and her objectives. From the first, her books have hovered along the hazy line between fiction and nonfiction, memoir and imagination. As she answers her critics and readers, she both clarifies the differences and exults in the difficulties of distinguishing between the remembered and the re-created.

She explains how she worked to bridge her parents' Chinese dialect with American slang, how she learned to explore her inheritance and find new relevance in her mother's "talk stories," and how she developed the complex juxtapositions of myths and memoir that fill her books. Always savvy, often provocative, constantly amused and amusing, Kingston provides a vivid commentary on her writing and offers insight into a body of her work.

Paul Skenazy is a professor of American literature and provost at Kresge College, University of California, Santa Cruz. Tera Martin is completing her doctorate in American literature at University of California, Santa Cruz.

256 pp.