A politics of métissage: Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts


Abstract

In her Autobiographical Voices: Race, Gender, Self-Portraiture (1989), Françoise Lionnet identifies the life writing of women of color as the reflection of their heterogeneous differences and theorizes female autobiographical narratives as métissage. Métissage, nearly untranslatable, meaning “braiding,” views autobiography as an engagement of the author with history, myth, and cultures, and defines it as a braid of multiple voices and disparate forms. InThe Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976), Maxine Hong Kingston combines numerous voices into the (auto)biographical “I” as well as various forms in the narrative to express her identity as comprising manifold, different elements. In her life writing, she neither follows the unique self-representation propagated by male writers nor validates the inner personal tradition of women. Instead, breaking the fixities of thought and expression, she juxtaposes the historical with the mythical, the biographical with the autobiographical to form a language of resistance and solidarity. The present paper argues that by articulating her identity as a braid of differences, constructing self as a braid of multiple voices, and making her narrative a braid of multiple genres and traditions Kingston enacts her life writing as a politics of métissage.


Keywords

differences, relational self, politics of métissage, Maxine Hong Kingston, blending traditions

Blinde, P. L. 1979. The icicle in the desert: Perspective and form in the works of two Chinese-American women writers. The Ethnic Perspective 6:3: 51-71.

Bolaki, S. 2009. It translated well: The promise and the perils of translation in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. MELUS 34:4: 39-60.

Cheung, K. 1988. ‘Don’t tell’: Imposed silences in The Color Purple and The Woman Warrior. PMLA 103:2: 162-174.

Fong, B. 1989. Maxine Hong Kingston’s autobiographical strategy in The Woman Warrior. Biography 12:2: 116-126.

Friedman, S. S. 1998. Women’s autobiographical selves. In: S. Smith & J. Watson (eds.), Women, Autobiography Theory: A Reader, 72-82. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Hasebe-Ludt, E. et al. 2009. Life Writing and Literary Métissage as an Ethos for Our Times. Switzerland: Peter Lang Publishing.

Hermans, H. J. M. 2003. The construction and reconstruction of a dialogical self. Journal of Constructivist Psychology 16:2: 89–130.

Hsu, H. 2020. Maxine Hong Kingston’s genre-defying life and work. The New Yorker, June 8 & 15. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/maxine-hong-kingstons-genre-defying-life-and-work (accessed 1 June 2020).

Hua, A. 2013. Chinese diasporic women’s writing, gender and identities: Rereading Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior for mnemonic traces. Asian Women 29:3: 71-96.

Huntley, E. D. 2001. Maxine Hong Kingston: A Critical Companion. United States: Greenwood Press.

Kingston, M. H. 1981. The Woman Warrior. London: Picador.

Kingston, M. H. 1989. China Men. New York: Vintage International Edition.

Li, L. D. 1988. The naming of a Chinese American ‘I’: Cross-cultural sign/ifications in The Woman Warrior. Criticism 30:4: 497–515.

Lionnet, F. 1989. Autobiographical Voices: Race, Gender, Self-Portraiture. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Ludwig, S. & Alexoae-Zagni, N. (eds). 2014. On the Legacy of Maxine Hong Kingston: The Mulhouse Book. Berlin/Münster: LIT Verlag.

Neuman, S. 1992. From different poetics to a poetics of differences. In: M. Kadar (ed). Essays on Life Writing: From Genre to Critical Practice, 213-230. University of Toronto Press.

Patel. N. 2019. Challenging the canon: How Maxine Hong Kingston narrates nonfiction with ghosts and talk-story. Paper Shell Review. https://english.umd.edu/research-innovation/journals/paper-shell-review/paper-shell-review-spring-2019/challenging-canon (accessed 1 June 2021).

Shu, Y. 2001. Cultural politics and Chinese-American female subjectivity: Rethinking Kingston’s Woman Warrior. MELUS 26: 2: 199-223.

Smith, S. 1987. A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography: Marginality and the Fictions of Self-representation. Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Smith, S. & Julia W. 2001. Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. Minneapolis: University Minnesota Press.

Thompson, P. H. 1983. This is the story I heard: A conversation with Maxine Hong Kingston and Earll Kingston. Biography 6:1: 1-12.

Watson, J. 1993. Toward an anti-metaphysics of autobiography. In: R. Folkenflik (ed.), The Culture of Autobiography: Constructions of Self-representation, 57-124. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Zuss, M. 1999. Subject Present: Life-Writings and Strategies of Representation. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

Download

Published : 2022-03-20


Popy, S. A. (2022) “A politics of métissage: Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts ”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, 350, pp. 17-27. doi: 10.15290/CR.2021.35.4.02.

Shirin Akter Popy  shirin@nstu.edu.bd
Noakhali Science and Technology University, Bangladesh  Bangladesh
https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2095-1113

Dr. Shirin Akter Popy is an Associate Professor in the Department of English, Noakhali Science and Technology University, Bangladesh. Her research articles have appeared in reputed peer reviewed journals like Crossings, Harvest, Commonwealth Review, Dialogue and Overtones. Her area of interest is autobiography studies. She is currently involved in a research project on selected South Asian Women’s autobiography.