Maxine Hong Kingston

Maxine Hong Kingston is a California-based novelist and nonfiction writer.

Selected Works:

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, China Men, Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book, The Fifth Book of Peace


1976 General Nonfiction Award: National Book Critics Circle (The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts); 1980 National Endowment for the Arts Writers Award; 1981 National Book Award for General Nonfiction (China Men); 1989 PEN West Award in Fiction (Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book); 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian American Literary Awards

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If you could recommend two or three books—fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry—to world leaders to help them gain a better understanding of America, what would they be?

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. These books are about "the American dream," and our tragedy as we try to attain that dream, or illusion. I wish I could be more upbeat in my choices. Okay, let me hope that the world leaders read my book, The Fifth Book of Peace. Also, In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams. Actually, I'd like more Americans to read that book, so that we might understand ourselves better.

Who in your childhood—for example, parent or teacher—encouraged you to read books, and which one or two books do you remember most fondly?

My mother and father were readers. And my mother would constantly “talk-story,” and my father would sing poetry. They read to me, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe in Chinese, illustrated with ink drawings. The books I read over and over again were Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Which books by writers from other countries have been most important to you as a writer?

Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong. I heard these adventures told by my mother, then later read them in English translation. Andrew Lang's Fairy Books. The Iliad.  The Odyssey. I read The Aeneid in Latin. The mythic and the legendary verify my own imagination. A real-life book that inspired me would be Gandhi's autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. The tome I am currently immersed in is War and Peace, the new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

What is the Power of the Word Exhibit?

Power of the Word: Leaders, Readers and Writers is the first online exhibition of The American Writers Museum. As world leaders gather in the U.S. this spring, The American Writers Museum Foundation is inviting American writers and readers to explore the power of the word and join in a discussion of how American books can help readers in other parts of the world better understand our culture.

Leaders Gallery

An exploration into what some of the world’s most powerful leaders like to read, and how reading has influenced them.

Writers Gallery

American writers comment on their early experiences with reading and name the books they think world leaders should read in order to better understand American culture.

Readers Gallery

An interactive, open forum where readers are invited to join the discussion by answering the question: Which American works of literature do you think leaders from other nations should read in order to gain a better understanding of America?

We would like to thank our exhibit sponsors for their generous support:


What is The American Writers Museum?

The mission of The American Writers Museum Foundation is to establish the first national museum in the United States dedicated to engaging the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives. Learn more at