On Wednesday, April 29th at 11:00 AM in the Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium, Jing Tsu (Chair, Council on East Asian Studies) held a conversation with Maxine Hong Kingston, author and Professor Emerita, UC Berkeley. Audience members were also invited to ask questions. Professor Kingston delivered this year’s Fintzi-Contini Lecture.
Kingston is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who operated a gambling house in the 1940s, when Maxine was born, and then a laundry where Kingston and her brothers and sisters toiled long hours. Kingston graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1962 from the University of California, Berkeley, and, in the same year, married actor Earll Kingston, whom she had met in an English course. The couple has one son, Joseph, born in 1963. They were active in antiwar protests in Berkeley, but in 1967 the Kingstons headed for Japan to escape the increasing violence and drugs of the antiwar movement. They settled instead in Hawai’i, where Kingston took various teaching posts. They returned to California seventeen years later, and Kingston resumed teaching writing at Berkeley.
While in Hawai’i, Kingston wrote her first two books. The Woman Warrior (1976) won the National Book Critics Circle Award, making her a literary celebrity at age thirty-six; China Men (1980) earned the National Book Award. Both works remain widely taught today. Kingston has also received the PEN West Award for Fiction (for Tripmaster Monkey, 1989); the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature; the National Humanities Medal, conferred by President Clinton; as well as the title “Living Treasure of Hawai’i,” bestowed by a Honolulu Buddhist church. Her most recent books are The Fifth Book of Peace (2003) and I Love a Broad Margin to My Life (2011). Kingston is currently Senior Lecturer Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2014, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama.
Photos by Jerry Domian, Photographer/Image Specialist, ITS–Campus Technology Services, Yale University