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Quotes

Quote #1

Chinese-Americans, when you try to understand what things in you are Chinese, how do you separate what is peculiar to childhood, to poverty, insanities, one family, your mother who marked your growing with stories, from what is Chinese? What is Chinese tradition and what is the movies? (1.12).

Kingston questions the idea of authenticity when it comes to Chinese identity in America. Her larger work in the memoir is to blur the lines between reality and fantasy, suggesting that there is no one truth.

Quote #2

I have believed that sex was unspeakable and words so strong and fathers so frail that "aunt" would do my father mysterious harm. I have thought that my family, having settled among immigrants who had also been their neighbors in the ancestral land, needed to clean their name, and a wrong word would incite the kinspeople even here. But there is more to this silence: they want me to participate in her punishment. And I have (1.47).

Kingston reflects that she has believed in her family's stories without question for too long. She realizes that she relied on her family to set the boundaries of reality for her before she realized her own ability to decide for herself.

Quote #3

"The first thing you have to learn," the old woman told me, "is how to be quiet." They left me by streams to watch for animals. "If you're noisy, you'll make the deer go without water" (2.23).

In Kingston's myth of herself as a training warrior, she advocates the strength in silence and listening. Letting there be space and sound for others can then be seen as an ethical choice.

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