1. This chapter largely describes Kingston’s mother’s life in China before Kingston was born. She describes her mother as very intellectual and practical, “A natural scholar who could glance at a book and know it.” But then we also see her mother practicing superstitions in private and she clearly believes in ghosts to some extent even if she is not fearful. What effect does this have on the reader and why do you think Kingston choose to set up a contrast of these two sides of her mother? What do these two sides ultimately say about Brave Orchid’s character and personality?
2. Ghosts are also large part of this chapter in particular. Even though the same word “ghost” is used over and over it is clearly used to describe many different things. Kingston tells us about the city ghosts she grew up with, ghosts that her mother would encounter in China, and we learn that not all foreigners are considered ghosts. What are the ghosts exactly? Does Kingston intend for us to believe they are real ghosts or are they representative of something greater? If so then what do they signify?
3. In this chapter, we are presented with many different stories about Kingston’s mother, stories that show the many sides of who she was as a person. What do you ultimately think about the portrayal of Brave Orchid after reading “Shaman?” Do you think these stories portray her in a positive or negative light, or somewhere in between? What do Kingston’s personal reactions, commentary, and literary choices in how the stories are told show us about their relationship? Does the last interaction between Kingston and her mother change how you initially felt about the chapter?