The daughter of parents who emigrated from China, writer Maxine Hong Kingston was the first of their eight children to be born in the United States. Her works, both fiction and nonfiction, focus on the experience of immigration and the continual sense of being tugged between two worlds. After her marriage and a stint as a high-school teacher, Kingston began writing full-time around 1967 and published the Woman Warrior: Memoir of a Girlhood among Ghosts in 1976. Although a novel, it won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction because of its mixture of fact and fiction, as well as its autobiographical elements. Kingston subsequently won the National Book Award for China Men (1980). She cites Walt Whitman as a particular influence, both for his style and for the breadth of his vision of an America that celebrates the multiplicity of experience and the possibilities of identity.
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution