The daughter of Chinese-American immigrants, Maxine Hong Kingston was born in 1940 in Stockton, California. She is the author of two highly-acclaimed works of nonfiction—Woman Warrior and China Men—and has also written two novels and a number of more recent works of nonfiction.

Kingston’s writing career began early with publication in The American Girl, a magazine put out by the Girl Scouts. She went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating, she moved with her husband, Earll Kingston, to Hawaii, where she began a career in teaching and where she wrote Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts.

Woman Warrior, which was published in 1976, bends genres by combining memoir and myth. The memoir won the National Books Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction in that year, launching Kingston’s career as prominent writer. China Men, which Kingston viewed as a continuation of the same memoir, was published in 1980 and won the National Book Award.

Since these publications, Kingston and her writings have received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Writing Awards, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and a National Humanities Medal. In 2013, President Barack Obama presented her with a National Medal of Arts. Today, she is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.

Video: Maxine Hong Kingston reading first poem she ever wrote, (see the full video of this reading here: