A Melting Pot

this blogpost is a response to another blogpost and an article

…the most remarkable, and often overlooked, quality of The Woman Warrior is that it is a book without a genre. At various times it has been described as a memoir, an autobiography, a novel, a manifesto; yet anyone who spends 10 minutes with it understands that none of these labels really apply.

The Woman Warrior is a novel that never found its category. It is indeed a mix of so many genres just like that of the different cultures that made and characterizes America. It is at once a memoir, describing the experiences of the author’s mother during her education in China. It is at once an autbiography describing the personal experiences of Maxine Hong Kingston hefself. And it is at once a novel, describing the traditional tale of Fa Mu Lan.

hot and sparking

hot and sparking

The writing style of this novel, I believe, best fits this one-of-a-kind genre. Although the divided chapters characterize each section with a certain genre that we may identify with if each chapter was a separate, individual book, the author uses some cues (such as objects, people, and events) to blend in from genre to another. The author references to the graduation diplomas, for example, to lead into the story about her mom. The reader follows the author’s smooth and manipulative path around the book and finds himself or herself suddenly in a different genre. The author was talking about Fa Mu Lan few pages before and suddenly the reader might find the author talking about her childhood in America few pages later.

I think the writing style of the book very well matches the intentions of the author to show the double-sided nature of the Chinese-American culture. The author jumps back and forth from talking about Chinese traditions and the new American culture, implicitly discussing the inherent dilemmas and situations Chinese immigrants face in America. The Chinese now represents a large portion of the American population, a large bulk of the so-called “melting pot” of cultures. With the cultural diaspora in mind, I think that the Woman Warrior poses intriguing questions and provokes stimulating thoughts about the mix of different cultures.

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