I wanted to sing the Chinese American self. (Maxine Hong Kingston, ‘Talking with the Woman Warrior’ (1989))
In the novel which I’m working on now, TripmasterMonkey: His Fake Book , my 23-year-old protagonist, Wittman Ah Sing, works to bring theater back to life. He imagines its beginnings in mythic China, but all the while alarmed that his roots are too exotic and non-American. I mean for Wittman to have a slangy, hip style. I hope that you hear a voice that is very different from the ones I’ve used before
Since the publication of The Woman Warrior in 1976, Maxine Hong Kingston has gained a reputation as one of the most popular—and controversial—writers in the Asian American literary tradition. This book traces her development as a writer and cultural activist through both ethnic and feminist discourses, investigating her novels, occasional writings, and her two-book ‘life-writing project’. The publication of The Woman Warrior not only propelled Kingston into the mainstream literary limelight, but also precipitated a vicious and ongoing controversy in Asian American letters over the authenticity—or fakery—of her cultural references. This book traces the debates through the appearance of China Men (1981), as well as the novel Tripmaster Monkey (1989) and her most recent work The Fifth Book of Peace.
her lost novel, which reunites us with Wittman Ah Sing and his wife Taña, the protagonists of Kingston’s 1989 novel about sixties hippie culture, TripmasterMonkey: His Fake Book . It is still the sixties, and, following the route taken by Kingston and her husband, Wittman and Taña and their son Mario are heading for Hawai‘i in order to evade the draft. Re-figuring these familiar characters from her earlier work as peace activists in The Fifth Book of Peace enables Kingston to simultaneously key into the countercultural vein of Tripmaster and to stage the
’s discussion of Kingston in The Americas of Asian American Literature: Gendered Fictions of Nation and Transnation (1999); Leslie Bow’s references to Kingston in Betrayal and other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women’s Literature (2001); and as a more extended analysis in Sally Keenan’s essay, ‘Crossing Boundaries’ (2000). This essay unusually not only focuses on The Woman Warrior but also on China Men , with some reference to TripmasterMonkey: His Fake Book . The title of this essay, ‘Crossing Boundaries’, taken from a phrase in The
Daughters Rewriting Asian Maternal Texts’ (1991) onwards. 15 This is partly, of course, a political imperative; as Wong puts it: ‘Identifying a matrilineal Asian American tradition is important in terms of not only racial politics within feminism, but also gender politics within cultural nationalism’. 16 It is for this reason, too, that Kingston’s later, and arguably more experimental, book, TripmasterMonkey: His Fake Book (1989), has been largely overlooked in Asian American critical discourse, since it was not just overshadowed by Kingston’s life-writing volumes