The Woman Warrior
by Maxine Hong Kingston
Narrator (Maxine Hong Kingston)
As both the narrator and author, Maxine Hong Kingston invites the reader into her alternate dimension where ghosts take on many forms and truth is whatever gets passed on. We have no reason to doubt what she tells us. We're never suspicious of her intentions since she is so vulnerable and open, never claiming to know everything. In fact she often points out things she has no answers for (like why her no-name aunt lived with her family instead of her husband's). We understand that Kingston takes us under her wing in her exploration of identity in hopes that we might learn something from her story, and through it learn something about ourselves.
As a character, Kingston is wide-eyed and self-conscious, imaginative and conflicted. Whether or not we identify as Chinese or female, chances are we as readers can relate with at least some of the frustrations Kingston has regarding her difficulties with her family and her multicultural identity. Kingston archives a lot of traditions she's grown up with, traditions she often doesn't even know the root of, but that have pervaded her sense of reality. When so much of your idea of the world, people, and yourself is filtered through stories, it's hard to know whether your sense of truth is based on first-hand experiences or through what you've heard.
We read Kingston's book and get the feeling that self-identity does work in a collage-like way. Our lives don't usually follow simple plotlines; you know the ones that follow one central conflict and is about that one character dealing with the one conflict. No doubt Kingston's book does have conflicts, but her collection of memoirs shows that it's always more complicated than any one thing. Maybe one story is not enough, maybe it takes multiple stories and no definitive endings. If Kingston's life story is literally written into stories, then maybe she's suggesting that any person's life story really is nothing else but a collection of stories. This is significant because it means that you have the power to write it differently, to give a different spin on it, to remember it as you wish it were.