Maxine Hong Kingston to inspire creative writing from students

Abigail Schutte, Channels Contributor

City College will host award-winning Chinese-American author Maxine Hong Kingston Friday, Nov. 8 in the Garvin Theatre.

She will be reading excerpts from her book ‘The Woman Warrior.”  The event is sponsored by the Creative Writing Program and funded through local donor Diane Raab.

David Starkey, English professor and creative writing program director, said that he and Raab were looking for a well-known author from California to speak at City College when Kingston’s name came up.

Starkey first heard of Kingston when he read her most famous work, and his personal favorite work of hers, “The Woman Warrior,” in the 1980s.

“She is famous for being one of the first Asian-American writers to publish an important book that was widely read,” said Starkey.

“The Woman Warrior” is an autobiography about the 20th century experiences of Chinese-Americans in the United States. It has been recognized by Time Magazine and has won many awards including the National Book Circle Critics Award.

“She is challenging in terms of the way that she writes,” Starkey said, “She doesn’t write conventionally but it grabs you. ‘Woman Warrior’ is all these stories told from different perspectives.”

He added that with her latest work, a book length poem about her life, she always seems like she’s pushing the envelope a little bit.

“I’ve also heard that she’s a really charismatic reader,” Starkey said.

Starkey said that as the director of the creative writing program, he hopes the event will inspire students to want to write creatively.

“I hope that it shows us that there’s lots of different ways to write. It would be great if it got people excited about the English major itself,” Starkey said. “My main thing is for people to go ‘Oh wow, I wish I could do that, I’m going to try and do that too.’ ”

With an experienced speaker like Kingston, he said that will cause her to be keen about judging her audience and that she’ll read a variety of works.

“She knows it’s a college audience, she’s not going to read too long, she’ll read pieces that she knows will connect with folks,” Starkey said.

City College recently hosted another famous author, Tim O’Brien, for the same sort of presentation. Starkey said that O’Brien’s presentation was a positive experience and that it changed the perspective of many students, and he hopes Kingston’s presentation will have a similar effect.

“Hopefully she’ll be able to do some of that with whatever she happens to talk about,” Starkey said.

The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Garvin Theater.

“Ideally it could be a kind of positive, life-changing experience,” said Starkey.

More information on the presentation can be found here.