Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Conversation with Maxine Hong Kingston

Maxine Hong Kingston published her first book, The Woman Warrior, in 1976. Since then, she has published six other books, won numerous awards, and become an inspiring and beloved icon of American literature.

She began her newest book, I Love a Broad Margin to My Life, at the age of 65. It is a memoir told in the language of poetry and imagination, the reflections of a singular personality as she considers the inevitable process of growing older.

Megan Kurashige recently had the pleasure of asking Kingston a few questions about her new work.

**Maxine Hong Kingston will be visiting Kepler's on Tuesday, February 22nd, at 7:00 PM. Don't miss this chance to meet a heroine of American and Asian-American literature! For more information, follow this link.**

MK: You have written about the world and your life in so many ways. What made you decide on verse as the best vehicle for expression in this book?

MHK: The Fifth Book of Peace took 12 years. Tripmaster Monkey took 10. At the age of 65, I use poetry to hasten the pace of creation.  
MK: Is storytelling, either in fiction, or in the remembering and relating of true events, an important aspect of the way you see and experience the world?

MHK: Story gives form and pleasure to the chaos that's life. By the end of the story, we have found understanding, meaning, revelation, resolution, reconciliation.

MK: In the middle of the book, you choose to revisit a character from the novel Tripmaster Monkey. Why did you decide to take Wittman Ah Sing on part of this journey?

MHK: When I was a child, I had many imaginary friends, armies of them. I brought Wittman along as an ally on my journey as an elder. Then I had to leave him, and go on alone. Each of us has to face death alone.

MK: Near the end of the book, you have a list of "your dead" who passed away during the writing process. I found this list surprisingly poignant and striking when set against the ordinary moments and conversations that you evoke so vividly. What was the process of writing this book like?

MHK: I wanted to write an elegy for each person who died. But there were so many dead. All I could do was list them, and by the end of the poem, the reader must know that each person deserves a novel. 

Maxine Hong Kingston was born in California. She has received numerous awards, including the National Book Award, the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal, and the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She was, for many years, a senior lecturer and is currently an emeritus faculty member at UC Berkeley.   

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