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Zagni : — When you were writing The Woman Warrior and afterwards, when you were trying to have it published, did you have in mind a specific audience? Could you enlarge on this question of the audience? I feel that I am addressing people of the future, and also people of the world. Then when I finished, when I was ready to send The Woman Warrior to publishers, I was thinking that I had written a book that was so unusual, different from anything else that was done before that I probably could not get it published in the United States. I thought the American publishers would not understand, and that I would send it to Hong Kong and London and see whether they could understand me better there.

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However, before I sent it to them, the American publishers did pick up the book! Even the question of not being translated well in other languages—I feel alright about that, because I see that English is becoming the lingua franca of the world and so, I am using a language that people throughout the world are trying to learn. If my work had come out later, there would have been less misreading. I do feel, though, that for a really true good appreciation of my work, it would help for the reader to understand history and to know the historical context.

But I think we can never count on that. Kingston : — Yes, that does for why I put that catalog of dates and history right in the middle of China Men. I do work a lot on expository information; I try to find graceful, beautiful ways to write expository information. Is it true? Kingston : — Actually I did write that section in China Men. Those obstacles take the form of exclusion laws, immigration laws, and they are like a wall of language that keeps the poets from flowing from one place to another.

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I think it works very well to have those different kinds of language in the book. Zagni : — The dullness of the voice narrating this official version of history is certainly striking…. An artist needs that kind of visa—a visa that will let you travel for purposes of your curiosity! Could you say more about this change? As a writer, can you speak for everyone? Who elected you representative of a people? He meant North America and South America, anywhere in this hemisphere.

Walt Whitman thought like this too, Walt Whitman literally lay down in the mud, and then the poet opens his mouth and the voice of America comes through him. I feel that way as I write. Zagni : — This le me to the question of the power of the writer and your handling of it, i. How do you keep this power to your advantage, how do you increase it, so as to serve you? Kingston : — Your question of how to keep power is also the question of how one keeps writing and writing well.

I think that I am interested now in how to empower other people. But what I do think about is how to transmit it to other people, like my students, how to give them this power that can do so much. One way of course is that I teach at universities. But the other way is when I gather my workshops of veterans. I think of veterans—or of people who have been through war—as people who have chaotic power. They have used the power of bombs and guns, and they have also been wounded.

All of them come back having lost the wars. Nobody goes out there and wins a war. All they have to do is put all this chaos into a form. Zagni : — As a writer, you position yourself as the inheritor of a Chinese oral tradition of talk-stories and legends. Those revisited narratives acquire American meanings.

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Can you comment on such continuous literary reworkings and this new, sometimes alternate, mythology? Kingston : — The way that myths are alive and travel from people to people and the way they communicate from one generation to the next is that they change as each person hears them and as each person tells them.

Before any people had discovered writing, we all told one another stories and told one another our ancestry, our adventures, our history and our imaginings. We listened to those stories and then we passed them on. From the very beginning, every time a story is being told, it changes in order to fit the circumstances and needs of the people who hear it. I want to leave all kinds of doors open so that the readers can read my version and then make up their own version next.

You hear a version of the music, and then you go out and make your own music.

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And there is more, you know… I guess this is my being a writer and a teacher, who wants to empower the reader and the students with their own stories—because we were talking about that, too. Zagni : — You acknowledge that in every one of your books you had to create a new way of telling what you had to say. You break through. How do you arrive at these unique literary forms? Are these conscious experimentations?

Kingston : — All of the forms that I work in have to do with experimentation. I know that I am experimenting and looking for a form to say what I have to say. I am influenced by Chinese language, which is pictorial and tonal, and I try to find forms in English that will convey this influence. But I also look for forms of storytelling, forms of story. Sometimes I could not write using that neat, classical shape of a story with its beginning, middle, and end, because the lives or the events that I was writing about did not take such an orderly form.

So I tried to find a shape of story that would fit the way I was thinking about various events. A lot of the lives I was writing about are fragmented. To tell their story I had to find a form. I also was interested in being able to write from various points of view and so I found ways of telling an event through the eyes of various narrators. I found ways of writing stories that were each in a different tone and style and yet they interlocked.

This is because I was writing about actual people who had wild imaginations and the narrator herself had a wild imagination. She had to have an imagination, because nobody would tell her the truth, so she had to imagine the truth.

In both books the people had dreams and they believed in their dreams. Dreams are fiction; I had to work in dreams-fiction with the reality of the people who had those dreams. I saw it as a marathon, whereas the two other books are like short races, a lot of short races, relay races or something… When I got to The Fifth Book of Peacethe form that I wanted there was very distinctly non-fiction. This is not a mix.

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But when I write about Wittman and his family, that is entirely fiction. This is a book that has separate fiction and non-fiction sections. What I have in mind is maybe a three-hundred- poem. So again, I feel that I am inventing another form.

Yet, in February this year, during the interview with Prof. And that if it should be written, this great American novel should also be a global novel. Could you enlarge on this idea? There had been all those writers, Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, all experimenting with this goal in mind—that the biggest thing that they could think of, that they had to do, was to write the great American novel.

They were defining what America was. Every city that we go to in the world is made up of people from all over the world. Everyone is migrating everywhere and we are all global people now, even those who live in a village, who have never moved. The globe comes to them.

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So many books are about a village where the people are trying to stay put and keep their old ways when here comes an international corporation, or here comes an army, or an invader, or the Internet, or television. A novel including all of us would be the most wonderful novel because this novel would have people speaking in all kinds of languages and voices and dialects.

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