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The author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here's a storyteller's tale of what they endured in a strange new land.
The Fifth Book of Peace begins as the author is driving home from her father's funeral and finds the exit to her neighbourhood blocked; a firestorm is devouring the Berkeley hills, including her house and all her earthly possessions, and most significantly the novel, The Fourth Book of Peace, that she has been working on. In this extraordinary book, The Fifth Book of Peace, Kingston describes the history of all the lost books of peace - both the three that figure in Chinese mythology, which scholars and laymen have searched for, hoping to find in them the antidote to The Art of War, and her own book, lost in the flames. Divided into four sections - 'Fire', 'Paper', 'Water' and 'Earth' - this book is neither fiction nor autobiography nor memoir, but a unique form of Chinese 'talk-story' in which real and imagined worlds intrude upon and enrich one another. From the anti-war protests in Hawaii to Kingston's own conversations with Vietnam veterans, the author takes us inside the hearts and minds of a host of characters, not least of whom is her own Mama, the veteran woman warrior Brave Orchid, who watches over her in the seminal years of rebuilding following the fire and her father's death.
In her singular voice--humble, elegiac, practical--Maxine Hong Kingston sets out to reflect on aging as she turns sixty-five. Kingston's swift, effortlessly flowing verse lines feel instantly natural in this fresh approach to the art of memoir, as she circles from present to past and back, from lunch with a writer friend to the funeral of a Vietnam veteran, from her long marriage ("can't divorce until we get it right. / Love, that is. Get love right") to her arrest at a peace march in Washington, where she and her "sisters" protested the Iraq war in the George W. Bush years. Kingston embraces Thoreau's notion of a "broad margin," hoping to expand her vista: "I'm standing on top of a hill; / I can see everywhichway-- / the long way that I came, and the few / places I have yet to go. Treat / my whole life as if it were a day."On her journeys as writer, peace activist, teacher, and mother, Kingston revisits her most beloved characters: she learns the final fate of her Woman Warrior, and she takes her Tripmaster Monkey, a hip Chinese American, on a journey through China, where he has never been--a trip that becomes a beautiful meditation on the country then and now, on a culture where rice farmers still work in the age-old way, even as a new era is dawning. "All over China," she writes, "and places where Chinese are, populations / are on the move, going home. That home / where Mother and Father are buried. Doors / between heaven and earth open wide."Such is the spirit of this wonderful book--a sense of doors opening wide onto an American life of great purpose and joy, and the tonic wisdom of a writer we have come to cherish.From the Hardcover edition.
A chronological review of writings from people living in California
Wittman Ah Sing, a Chinese-American hippie in the late '60s, is driven by his dream to write and stage an epic production of interwoven Chinese novels.
National Book Award Winner Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior, China Men, and The Fifth Book of Peace, has been leading writing-and-meditation workshops for veterans for more than a decade. The practice of meditating together, writing stories and poems, and then reading their works aloud has been extremely healing for these individuals and has produced some extraordinary writing - Tolstoy-like descriptions of battle scenes, Hemingway-esque flashbacks, and gripping accounts of growing up in military families, serving as medics in the thick of war, coming home to homelessness, and finally doing the work to experience first-hand the deep transformation that is possible when one truly comes to grips with one's whole past.
A young girl's account of growing up Chinese-American in California.
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