Saturday, March 12, 2005

Gina Notes Maxine Hong Kingston for Women's History Month

Gina: I think we should all note Maxine Hong Kingston because she is a strong, brave voice and a writer who causes you to think about large issues and your own involvement in the larger picture.

Her works often reflect on her cultural heritage and blend fiction with non-fiction. Among her works are The Woman Warrior (1976), awarded the National Book Critics Award for Nonfiction, and China Men (1980), given the same award. She has written one novel, Tripmaster Monkey, a story depicting a character based on the mythical Chinese character Son Wu Kong. Her most recent books are To Be The Poet and The Fifth Book of Peace.

On December 6, 2004 The Common Ills recognized The Fifth Book of Peace and Hong Kingston with an entry (  I'm going to swipe the excerpt quoted there and note it here:


Clifton, the driver, said, "When the VISTA job is over, and if the war is still going on, I'll resist the draft. I'm not a draft evader. I'm not a draft dodger. I don't believe in dodging and evading. I'm a draft resister." He looked Wittman eye-to-eye in the rearview mirror. "Do you get the difference? I keep my draft board and the SSS informed exactly where I'm at, and what I'm doing. My every activity on the outside of the army is political activity. Everything I do, I'm resisting. I'm practicing for my confrontation day with the army. I look forward to it; I'm not evading it. When my number comes up, I'm going straight to my induction center. They'll call out my name -- Anderson, Clifton. That's a crucial moment, when they call out your name. You're supposed to take one step forward. That one step is a very symbolic step. It means that you are volunteering of your own free will even if you've been drafted. You're assenting. I am a soldier. You're obeying your first order. I'll use willpower, that I not take that step. I'll resist. I'm practing not to take that step. My telling you about it right now is practice. I think about not taking that step. I am developing a resistance state of mind. Everybody else will step forward, so I naturally will want to step forward too. My good friends rehearse me; they call out, 'Anderson, Clifton,' and I freeze. You take a step, and that's the step that takes you from walking the walk of a free man to walking the walk of a Government Issue. The army may try to coax me or ridicule me or threaten me, but I'm forewarned and prepared. I will not step forward. Then they'll see that I heard my name but am purposefully not stepping forward, and they'll arrest me. They could jail me then and there. Or they could dangle me, send me home for two weeks or an indefinite time. I know a guy who didn't hear from them for nine months. They want you to stew over the possible consequences. Jail. A record. Unemployed from now on. Losing the vote. A lot of people can't take the suspense. They'll leave for Canada, or they'll induct themselves. Me, I'm withstanding the pressure. They call me up again, I'll resist some more. I'm resisting evil. 'In times of evil, resist evil, even if you have no hope to stop it.'"

That was from pages 136 to137.  I'm a long time fan of Hong Kingston's writing but I wasn't even aware that this book had come out (in paperback or previously in hard cover).  I rushed out to buy it and found the usual mixture of straight talk and deep thought.  She is a writer who matters because she tries to make sense of the world around us.  For that reason, she deserves to be noted.