Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I love thinking about Maxine Hong Kingston's WOMAN WARRIOR with students

Ever since I was an undergraduate, I've love "White Tigers" the second chapter of Maxine Hong Kingston's novel, The Woman Warrior; Memoirs of a Girlhood Amongst Ghosts. I always appreciated that it was listed as nonfiction/fiction, too, playing on the way memories work in departmental ways writers and writing are characterized within higher education. I taught the book to seniors in Kentucky and opted to put it on my syllabus this semester working with Fairfield freshmen. I didn't anticipate the connections we could make with Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and/or the larger conversations we could have about how woman are portrayed in the 21st century. "White Tigers" is a classic and the delicacy of every word in Kingston's text continues to keep me on my toes and thinking.

I suppose it helps, too, that Disney made Mulan since I first read the book as a 20-year old. Continuing with the Disneyification of global history, there's comedy to the interpretation of the Fa Mu Lan story. We watched clips in class yesterday, which naturally allowed us to have conversations about what Kingston means about the differences between American-feminine versus Chinese-feminine. The text comparison also allowed us to dialogue about male constructions, as well.

Also interesting to me was how the majority of kids named mothers and grandmothers as woman warriors who best influenced who they are today. Although I've taken courses on feminist theory and read a lot of female writers, it is impossible for me to claim expertise on what women go through in schools and life, but I love that Maxine Hong Kingston's book opens the conversation for my students to think about opportunities for women, oppression, and the need for strong women characters.

The conversation made me think about Katniss Everdeen, today, and now I want to read how she is being viewed in academic circles, especially in relation to equality and equity for young women around the world. In relation to The Doll's House that I experienced over this weekend, I'm impressed at the ways characters for women to admire (or reject) have evolved. We need more. We can always use more.

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