Short Story Cycles

The Woman Warrior: A Question of Genre

Discussing Maxine Hong Kingston's classic and insights about the relation between memoir and story cycles


Furthermore, in “Autobiography, Autography, Fiction,” Abbott stresses that the primary difference between autobiography and fiction is the presence of a distinct ending—or lack thereof: “Standing analytically apart from his narrated self, [the author] is aware that insofar as his narrative is about himself it can have no conclusion to give it final shape” (609). This lack of “final shape,” according to Abbott, also explains why the protagonist in an autobiography cannot have an identity as “crisp” as the protagonist in a fictional story. A comparison of the ending of The Woman Warrior to Abbott’s theory defends an autobiographical reading of the book. Kingston ends the last chapter, “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe,” with talk-story: “Here is a story my mother told me,” she writes, “not when I was young, but recently, when I told her I also talk-story. The beginning is hers, the ending, mine” (Kingston 206). Talk-story as a conclusion is indefinite simply because talk-story itself is indefinite. Yet, it is an appropriate ending for The Woman Warrior, not only because talk-story is a mixture of fact and fiction like the book as a whole, but also because this particular talk-story is partially Brave Orchid’s and partially Maxine’s. This symbolizes the balance established at the end of the book, as Maxine learns to come to terms with her Chinese-American identity.


from Jenessa Job (year unknown): “Maxine Hong Kingston: A Question of Genre” in Deerfield: Journal of the CAS Writing Program.


Download link: (with further information about the article author)


This article is indexed because I have recently discovered Maxine Hong Kingston’s works and the fascinating links between autobiography and short story cycles

See also

Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior” entry on


Did you find this site useful? You can show your appreciation by liking, sharing or subscribing to my short story cycle, Depending on the Morning Sun.

You might also find these materials interesting ...