The Woman Warrior
by Maxine Hong Kingston
The Woman Warrior Versions of Reality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Whenever she had to warn us about life, my mother told stories that ran like this one, a story to grow up on. She tested our strength to establish realities. Those in the emigrant generations who could not reassert brute survival died young and far from home. Those of us in the first American generations have had to figure out how the invisible world the emigrants built around our childhoods fits in solid America (1.10).
Kingston describes the added difficulty of growing up an immigrant's child. When one's family culture and parents know a different reality than the one you're growing up in, it gets tricky to negotiate both places and senses of time.
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 (1.47).
Kingston describes her frustration in realizing that she too readily believed the reality that her parents painted. Her sense of reality growing up, and thus her sense of how to behave in that reality, was largely dependent on the stories her parents told. We might wonder then how we react to the kind of reality that Kingston creates.
I had met a rabbit who taught me about self-immolation and how to speed up transmigration: one does not have to become worms first but can change directly into a human being – as in our own humaneness we had just changed bowls of vegetable soup into people too (2.40).
In the chapter "White Tigers," Kingston suspends reality and considers a more spiritual approach to being in the world, one where humanity is demonstrated by all creatures.