Breaking boundaries: The autobiographical revolution in Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club and Edna Wu's Clouds & Rain
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Susan N. Maher
Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, and Edna Wu's Clouds & Rain break the boundaries between autobiography and fiction forging a new vision in literary tradition. They create works that reflect the complexity of their search for self: how in every generation each individual must reinvent and reinterpret her cultural heritage (Fischer 195). Their works are a montage of patterns, inherited from tradition and interwoven with their unique conventions to create an autobiography inclusive of their identity, their culture, and their new vision. In an attempt to express their unique realities, these Chinese American women writers experiment in form (Kim 214). They defy the definitions of autobiography and fiction, and create blended genre forms which include fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, biography, poetry, letters, diaries, and even history. The search for identity as a Chinese American woman is at the forefront of each of these works. They must untangle what it means to be Chinese and what it means to be American, and resolve a "double consciousness," existing as simultaneously an insider and an outsider (Wong 265). They must tell their stories, their mothers' stories, and their culture's stories to understand who they are and where they belong. Their works partake of the "mood of metadiscourse" and encourage reader participation in the production of meaning (Fischer 232). They want their readers to learn and develop their own means just as they must do. Their stories end without closure-the work is in progress just like the self. Moving from silence to voice, victim to victor, their stories support their status as Chinese American women, and thus invent "new and empowering traditions for their (literary) daughters"(Lionnet 53). Jade Snow Wong, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and Edna Wu are part of a revolution toward multiplistic autobiography-a tradition that allows for cultural and gender differences, and differences in tradition. The multiplicity of form speaks for a new vision, a tradition that is evolving to enable a change in perception about Chinese Americans, women, and the very genre in which they inscribe the self.
Franzen, Jacqueline P., "Breaking boundaries: The autobiographical revolution in Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club and Edna Wu's Clouds & Rain" (1996). Student Work. 3235.
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A Thesis Presented to the Department of English and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1996 Jacqueline P. Franzen.