Reading The Woman Warrior reminds me a lot of a book I read in my 12th grade English class called Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje. This book is considered a memoir, and it basically centers around Michael as he returns to his homeland of Sri Lanka, which he has not seen since he was a kid and moved to Canada with his mother and siblings. Especially since Michael has not seen his late-father since he left, much of the memoir focuses on the stories about his family and father. It is told in a very non-linear fashion because he was hearing stories in bits and pieces, and during the book there is a lot to question about the veracity of the stories being told, with Michael as the narrator also wondering how close he will get to the truth about his family or any epiphany about his identity in relation to them.

This connects to The Woman Warrior because in the book we are reading there is also a strong emphasis on talk-story, and on occasion it seems disjunctive, sort of like how the mind wanders from one story to the next, often without a strong link between the stories. There is also the same idea of stories being translated; for example, Maxine explains that she was not actually there at all to see the events of the chapter “At the Western Palace,” and that she heard about it through her sister who heard it from their brother. Many times, Maxine narrates stories about her mother Brave Orchid and others at times and places she never was, and so these too are translations of what occurred.

Another idea that I think relates Running in the Family with The Woman Warrior is a question of identity in respect to one’s family. We’ve talked about how Americans are raised to be independent individuals, whereas in many Eastern cultures they are raised to be a part of a family and a community. In at least some respects, both Michael and Maxine find themselves pulled in both of these directions, having been raised in some ways with the culture of their origins and the culture of their current home. Michael finds a part of his identity by identifying with the stories of his mother, father, and grandmother in Sri Lanka. Although it may not be explicitly expressed, I think that part of the reason why Maxine includes so many stories about the women in her life, including Brave Orchid, Moon Orchid, and even the legend of Fa Mu Lan, is because these people and these stories helped shape her into the person she is today.

I HIGHLY recommend reading Running in the Family! If you want to know more about the author, here is a link to an article about him:

Connection to Running In the Family

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