Acclaimed author of several books, Maxine Hong Kingston began writing at the age of nine (“I was in the fourth grade and all of a sudden this poem started coming out of me”), and won her first writing award in a journalism contest at The University of California, Berkeley when she was sixteen.
Then in 1976, when she was 36, Kingston published The Woman Warrior, which The New York Times praised, comparing it to James Joyce’s Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man. The book won the National Book Critic’s Circle Award and turned Kingston into an instant celebrity. Her subsequent books have also garnered praise. In 1980, the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i named Kingston a Living Treasure of Hawai’i.
In 1991, a massive fire in the Oakland-Berkeley hills consumed Kingston’s house and her only copy of her manuscript-in-process, The Fourth Book of Peace. Around the same time, President George H.W. Bush was ordering the invasion of Iraq. In an effort to heal and to bring healing to veterans as well, Kingston began offering writing and meditation workshops intended to help veterans give voice to their experiences.
For the past two decades, Kingston has been working with veterans, as well as other survivors of war, to convert the horrors they experienced into stories that Kingston believes will help them cope and survive. She also drew on her experiences in the workshops to produce her book, The Fifth Book of Peace.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton awarded Kingston the National Humanities Medal. In March 2003, she was arrested (along with Alice Walker) for crossing a police line at the White House as part of a CODEPINK action to protest the Iraq War.
Kingston’s newest book, I Love a Broad Margin to My Life, is a book-length poem/memoir that follows the author to China and back, and includes her reflections on such things as love, loss, aging and imagination.
She is Senior Lecturer Emeritus in the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley.