Maxine Hong Kingston Research Paper

One of the most vocal modern-day women’s rightist authors, Maxine Hong Kingston provinces in her autobiographical book The Woman Warrior ( 1976 ) , “The swordswoman and I are non so dissimilar. What we have in common are the words at our dorsums. The parlances for retaliation are ‘ describe a offense’and ‘ study to five families.’The coverage is the retribution – non the decapitation, non the gutting, but the words.” With prose that both unsettles Chinese American sexism and American racism, Kingston is a “word warrior” who battles societal and racial unfairness. It is possibly surprising that Kingston could non talk English until she started school. Once she had learned it, nevertheless, she started to speak narratives. Decades subsequently, this one time soundless and silenced adult female is going a noteworthy Americanwriter.

Maxine Hong Kingston was born to Chinese immigrant parents, Tom Hong and Chew Ying Lan, in Stockton, California, on 27 October 1940. Her American name, Maxine, was after a blonde who was ever lucky in chancing. Tinging Ting, her Chinese name, comes from a Chinese verse form about autonomy. The eldest of the six Hong kids, Kingston had two older siblings who died in China old ages before her female parent came to the United States. Kingston recalls the early portion of her school instruction as her “soundless old ages” in which she had a awful clip speaking. Later Maxine, who flunked kindergarten, became a straight-A pupil and won a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley.

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In 1962 she got her unmarried man’s grade in English and married Earll Kingston, a Berkeley alumnus and an histrion. She returned to the university in 1964, earned a learning certification in 1965, and taught English and mathematics from 1965 to 1967 in Hayward, California. During their clip at Berkeley, the Kingstons were involved in the antiwar motion on campus. In 1967 they decided to go forth the state because the motion was acquiring more and more violent, and their friends were excessively involved in drugs. On their manner to Japan the Kingstons stopped in Hawaii and stayed there for 17 old ages.

At first Kingston taught linguistic communication humanistic disciplines and English as a 2nd linguistic communication in a private school. In 1977 she became a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii at Honolulu. A few yearss after she finished the concluding alterations of China Men ( 1980 ) , a Honolulu Buddhist religious order claimed Kingston as a “Populating Treasure of Hawaii.” Kingston herself, nevertheless, was still looking homeward, holding ever felt like a alien in the islands. She and her hubby moved back to California, while their boy, Joseph, stayed in Hawaii and became a instrumentalist. In 1992 Kingston became a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kingston’s composing relies to a great extent on memory and imaginativeness. “We approach the truth with metaphors,” declared Kingston in a 1983 essay, “An Imagined Life.” She besides told Paula Rabinowitz in a1987 interview, “The creative person’s memory winnows out; it edits for what is of import and important. Memory, my ain memory, shows me what is unforgettable, and helps me acquire to an kernel that will non decease, and that hangouts me until I can out it into a signifier, which is writing.”

Kingston denies, nevertheless, that the usage of memory in her authorship is merely a signifier of dispossession, but she insists that it is a manner to give substance to the “shades,” or “visions,” in her life. Her authorship besides denies categorization: she is entering the life of a people’s imaginativeness. Her first two books are Kingston’s lifes of ascendants whom she has ne’er met and records of things about which she has merely heard.

Imagination becomes her manner to near these characters and incidents. For case, she imagines five ways for her male parent’s reaching in America in China.Men. She is proud of this inventive effort because by infixing multiple narratives into her “biographical” works she is able to exceed generic boundaries and protect the illegal foreigners she is composing approximately at the same clip. “To hold a right imaginativeness is really powerful,” Kingston told Rabinowitz, “because it’s a span between reality. ”

The major beginnings of Kingston’s memory and imaginativeness are her female parent’s narratives and her male parent’s silence. Kingston’s male parent, Tom Hong, was a bookman trained in traditional Chinese classics and a instructor in New Society Village before his in-migration. In the United States he washed windows until he had saved adequate money to get down a wash in New York with three of his friends. Subsequently, Hong was cheated out of his portion of the partnership. He moved with his pregnant married woman to Stockton and started pull offing an illegal gaming house for a affluent Chinese American.

A major portion of his work, besides taking attention of the nine, was to be arrested; he was soundless about his true name and invented a new name for each apprehension. World War II put him out of this rhythm of managing and acquiring arrested because the gaming house was shut down. After a period of unemployment he started his ain wash and a new life for himself and his household in America.

Brave Orchid ( or Ying Lan, in Chinese ) , Kingston’s vocal and practical female parent, was a physician who practiced Western medical specialty and obstetrics in China. She did non fall in her hubby in New York until 1940, 15 old ages after they had parted. In America, Brave Orchid exchanged her professional position for that of a washwoman, cleaning amah, tomato chooser, and cannery worker. Undaunted by the troubles in her life, this “title-holder speaker” educated her kids with “talk narratives,” which included myth, fable, household history, and shade narratives. “Night after dark my female parent would talk-story until we fell asleep.

I could non state where the narratives left off and the dreams began,” Kingston recalls in “The Women Warrior. Through her talk narratives, Brave Orchid extended Chinese tradition into the lives of her American kids and enriched their imaginativeness. Yet Kingston is besides cognizant of the fact that the female parent’s speaking narratives were double-edged: “She said I would turn up a married woman and slave, but she taught me the vocal of the adult female warrior, Fa Mu Lan,” Kingston recollects in The Woman Warrior. While Brave Orchid’s storytelling was educational, it besides reiterated patriarchal and misogynous messages of traditional Chinese civilization. Furthermore, as in traditional Chinese instruction, Brave Orchid did non explicate her narratives. Kingston needed to construe her female parent’s narratives and became a narrator herself.

Her community besides played a decisive function in Kingston’s composing. Comparing herself to Toni Morrison and Leslie Silko, Kingston argues that what makes their Hagiographas vivid and alive is their connexion with community and folk. Yet Kingston refuses to be “representative” of Chinese Americans. “A Stockton Chinese is non the same as a San Francisco Chinese,” Kingston stated in an interview with Arturo Islas. Unlike “the Big City” ( San Francisco ) and “the Second City” ( Sacramento ) , Stockton, a metropolis in the Central Valley of California, has a comparatively little Chinese population.

At most the Stockton Chinese American community is a minor subculture of Chinese America. Yet Stockton became a “literary microcosm” for Kingston, whose cognition of China derives from its people. And the linguistic communication spoken in this community, a Cantonese idiom called Say Yup, supplies Kingston with typical sounds and beat. What Kingston has done in her authorship is to interpret the unwritten tradition of her community into a written one.

Furthermore, the physical environment and societal category in which Kingston grew up played an of import function in her “instruction” as a author. Kingston spent her childhood on the south side of Stockton, an country populated by largely working-class and unemployed people of assorted races. The “Burglar Ghosts,” “Hobo Ghosts,” and “Wino Ghosts” that crowded immature Maxine’s childhood memory testify to the importance of street wisdom and endurance accomplishments. Kingston insists on the audiotape Maxine Hong Kingston: Talking Story ( 1990 ) that had she been born in a middle-class suburb, her battle to be a author would hold been harder.

In contrast Kingston calls her 17 old ages in Hawaii an drawn-out holiday. Her clip there provided her with the necessary distance and position to screen out individuality jobs and to complete her first two books, The Woman Warrior and China Men. Kingston was unsure how her work would be received when she finished The Woman Warrior. She was ready to direct this aggregation of fiction to other states or maintain it for posthumous publication if she failed to happen a publishing house.

Fortunately, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. gambled on this unknown author and published Kingston’s book as nonfiction. To the surprise of both publishing house and author The Woman Warrior became an immediate best-seller. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction in 1976 and was rated as one of the top 10 nonfiction books of the decennary. Equally tardily as 1989 it was still on the trade-paperback best-sellers list. Kingston’s following book, China Men, earned her a National Book Award. Both books are widely taught in literature, adult females’s surveies, sociology, cultural surveies, and history categories.

Kingston’s success, nevertheless, earned her the hostility of some Asiatic American critics. The most cardinal expostulation to The Woman Warrior is its generic position. Some Asiatic American critics question whether it is valid to name the book an autobiography when there are so many fictional elements included in her personal experience. Furthermore, they fault Kingston for showing her personal experience as “representative” of the Chinese American community.

The existent job, nevertheless, seems to rest on those readers who have misconceived the text. In her 1982 essay “Cultural Mis-readings” Kingston herself laments the fact that many critics of the dominant civilization have misread her and measured her against the stereotype of the alien, cryptic, cryptic Orient. Kingston’s foremost two books belong to the postmodernist mixed-genre tradition. Her books are non autobiographies as a specific genre but an “autobiographical signifier” that combines fiction and nonfiction.

One manner to look at Kingston’s major plants is to see them as different narratives of growing. In The Woman Warrior the first-person storyteller explores her individuality formation in relation to her female parent and female relations. In China Men the storyteller grows in her apprehension of the narratives other male ascendants.

Together these two books reveal the development of a Chinese American adult female by bring outing the pent-up narratives of her household and of Chinese American history. Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book ( 1989 ) , her true fiction, on the other manus, reports the artistic instruction of a immature Chinese American Gypsy, Wittman Ah Sing. Another dominant subject in each of Kingston’s major books is happening a manner of articulation for her characters: the soundless aunts and the storyteller in The Woman Warrior, the reticent male parent and suppressed grampss in China Men, and the olaywright-to-be Wittman in Tripmaster Monkey. Evolving along with her authorship, Kingston recorded her ain growth strivings and her battles to happen a typical voice.

Kingston’s chief undertaking in The Woman Warrior is to revenge subjugation by describing narratives about the adult females in her household. The book opens with “No Name Woman,” a narrative other unidentified aunt in China. This aunt became a household castaway for acquiring pregnant out of marriage and eventually drowned herself and her newborn babe in the household good after the villagers raided her house.

Brave Orchid reveals this household secret to the immature Maxine on the oncoming of the girl’s menses to admonish her against sexual injudiciousness. At the same clip, the female parent efforts to stamp down this narrative by prohibiting the girl to reiterate it. Kingston, nevertheless, intentionally reports the narrative as an act of political opposition to Chinese patriarchate and repression in general. Furthermore she contrives different grounds for her aunt’s gestation: the aunt could hold been a victim of colza and patriarchate; she could besides hold been a passionate seductress and an individualist. Through active imaginativeness, Kingston gives this aunt life and immortality in her ain manner.

In “At the Western Palace,” the 4th sectic of “fhe Woman Warrior, Kingston tells the narrative of her other soundless Chinese aunt, Moon Orchid. Th “thrice-told narrative” – told to Kingston by her sister, who in bend heard it from her brother – is the lone third-person narration in the book, and it communicates the jeopardy of hapless accommodation to American world. Moon Orchid, whose name alludes to her unsubstantial presence, has lived comfortably in Hong Kong on the subsidy from her hubby.

Through the use of Brave Orchid, Moon Orchid is forced to come to America to roll up her lost hubby and claim her rubric of first married woman. After she discovers her thoroughly Americanized hubby, a successful physician who has remarried, to an English-speaking married woman, Moon Orchid’s old Chinese life based on an semblance of changeless stableness is shattered. Becoming paranoiac and morbidly afraid of alteration, Moon Orchid repeatedly claims she is being followed by foreign “ghosts.” She is eventually sent to a mental refuge, where she dies.

By stating Moon Orchid’s narrative, nevertheless, the storyteller creates a voice for this laden adult female from the East. Brave Orchid diagnoses Moon Orchid’s mental upset as stemming from her mis-placed spirit. By entering her aunt’s decomposition, Kingston gives Moon Orchid a topographic point in her “mother book” and appeases the aunt’s spirit. She even transforms the mental infirmary into a quasi-utopian community of adult females.

For the weakness Moon Orchid her stay in the mental establishment paradoxically brings her needed stableness and a impermanent topographic point to ground her spirit. She besides finds credence from her “girls,” psychiatric patients of different races, and hence is able to speak “a new narrative” about perfect communicating alternatively other old one of persecution.

The 2nd subdivision of The Woman Warrior,” White Tigers,” is an frequently anthologized and discussed portion of the book because of its antic portraiture of a female retaliator. This narrative of the swordswoman is derived from the narrative of the leg-endary Chinese heroine Fa Mu Lan, who substitutes for her aging male parent in a military muster.

In Kingston’s version the swordswoman surveies soldierly humanistic disciplines from a brace of cryptic old twosomes and leads a peasant rebellion against the oppressive emperor. After she decapitates the woman hater baron who has exploited her small town and ruined her child-hood, the swordswoman renounces her masculine power and returns to the traditional functions of daughter-in-law, married woman, and female parent. In “Personal Statement,” Kingston calls the narrative of the swordswoman “a phantasy that inspires the misss’minds and their politics.” By following the narrative of an model adult female who has successfully balanced her functions in the populace domain, which is about ever dominated by work forces, and in the private domain of place, Kingston is conceive ofing triumph over the androcentric Chinese and Chinese American traditions.

While Kingston has been faulted by Asiatic American critics and Sinologists for inaccurate allusions to Chinese narratives, the strength of “White Tigers” comes from her revising of traditional fables and mythology. In “Personal Statement” Kingston explains that “myths have to alter, be utile or disregarded. Like the people who carry them across the oceans, the myths become American.The myths I write are new, American.”

In “White Tigers,” for illustration, Kingston creatively rewrote traditional myths and appropriates male epic fables for her adult female warrior. Through this originative mythmaking Kingston created a heroine who transgresses traditional gender boundaries. The swords-woman describes how her parents carve their names, vows, and grudges on her dorsum.

Although undeniably an act of bodily mutilation, this act rep-resents a desired household recognition for Chinese and Chinese American adult females. Furthermore Kingston’s description of the book on the swordswoman’s back is a calculated combination of physical and artistic beauty: “If an enemy should flay me, the visible radiation would reflect through my tegument like lace.” Through this alteration of the chant ofFa Mu Lan, ‘ Kingston vicariously satisfied her pressing desire for household acknowledgment.

The female parent’s narrative, “Shaman,” is situated in the center of the book. The Woman Warrior non merely chronicles the development of the girl Maxine but besides the female parent’s battle for self-definition.” Shaman” records Brave Orchid’s transition from a traditional adult female to a respectable adult female physician.

After the deceases of her two kids born in China, Brave Orchid decided to go forth her uneventful life in New Society Village to analyze medical specialty in Canton, the capital of the state. In the medical school Brave Orchid earns outstanding classs and biddings the bravery to dispute the “Siting Ghost.” She volunteers to pass a dark in a obsessed room in the residence hall, reportedly defeats the shade as it tries to assail her, and mobilizes the whole pupil organic structure to take part in her exorcizing ritual. In a sense Brave Orchid’s battle with the Siting Ghost is a symbolic conflict with the bounds of traditionality.

Back in her small town Brave Orchid uses her intelligence to set up herself as a celebrated physician. Not unlike the antic swordswoman, Brave Orchid “has gone off ordinary and come back marvelous, like the ancient prestidigitators who came down from the mountains. ” ;

Brave Orchid’s American girl must besides larn to contend the “shades” in her life. the Woman Warrior is subtitled Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts. “Once upon a clip,” the storyteller recalls, “the universe was so thick with shades, I could hardly take a breath; I could barely walk, gimping my manner around the White Ghosts and their cars.” While some readers may happen this usage of shades clashing, Kingston does non utilize the term in any dyslogistic sense. Her universe of shades is a consequence other parents’refusal to admit America and of the shadowy residues of the Chinese yesteryear in her childhood and young-adult life. The storyteller protests, “whenever my parents said ‘ place,’they suspended America.

They suspend America. They suspended enjoyment, but I did non desire to travel to China.” Significantly, the rapprochement of the female parent and the girl in “Shaman” occurs after the female parent eventually gives up on the hereditary fatherland. “We have no more China to travel place to,” the aged Brave Orchid plaints.

The girl, now released from the “shade” of China that was imposed on her as a kid, can freely admit her matriline age: “I am truly a Dragon, as she is a Dragon, both of us born in the firedrake old ages. I am practically a first girl of a first daughter.” This rapprochement of female parent and girl precedes “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe,” the last subdivision of The Woman Warrior, in which Kings-ton recalls her battle with a personal voice from kindergarten to the narrative nowadays: “My silence was thickest entire during the three old ages that I covered my school pictures with black pigment, “Kingston writes. The inkiness of her pictures is non a mark of mental perturbation, as her American instructors have assumed: “I was doing a phase drape, it was the minute before the drape parted and rose,” the grownup Kingston explains.

Once the drape is up, there is “sunlight underneath, mighty operas.” This transmutation of blackness-inarticu- lateness into carnivalesque play provides an first-class metaphor for Kingston’s development as a author. Later, in Tripmaster Monkey, a mighty opera unfolds in Wittman’s theatrical production. The psychodrama of immature Maxine’s lingual battle is concretely enacted in an incident that takes topographic point when she is in the 6th class. One twenty-four hours immature Maxine confronts and physically attacks a quiet Chinese American miss, true her dual, in a cellar bathroom after school. But merely “shortness of breath, choking coils, noises that were about words” come out of the miss, ne’er a comprehendible word. “If you don’t talk, you can’Ts have a personality,” Max- ine cries ( to herself every bit good as to the other miss ).

Maxine’s sadistic inhuman treatment signifies her ain interior injury of inarticulateness. After this belowground brush, Maxine spends 18 months in bed “with a cryptic unwellness” and the quiet miss lives under the protection other household for the remainder other life.”  After old ages of silence the adolescent Maxine finds an angry voice in a confrontation with her female parent. Before this showdown Maxine has tried un- ‘ successfully to squeal to the two-hundred-odd discourtesies that she has committed in her immature life, such as torturing the soundless miss and stealing from the hard currency registry at the household wash. “If merely I could allow my female parent know the list,” Maxine thought, “she and the universe would go more like me, and I would ne’er be entirely again.” Yet the female parent puts a halt to Maxine’s effort at communicating, and the hurting of silence eventually drives Maxine to shout out her rebelliousness of Chinese- misogyny and her desire to go forth place.

This exultant voicing, nevertheless, is instantly under- nr hour thp narrat-nr’s sorrowful contemplation as an older and wiser individual: “Be careful what you say. It comes true. It comes true. I had to go forth place in order to see the universe logically, logic the new manner of seeing. I learned to believe that enigmas are for account. I enjoy the simpleness. Concrete pours out of my oral cavity to cover the woods with expresswaies and pavements. Give me fictile, periodical tabular arraies, t.v. dinner with veggies no more complex than peas assorted with diced carrots. Shine flood lamps into dark corners: no ghost.” Her ghost-free new life is based on a vagabond asepsis represented by the concrete and fictile civilization. She has escaped the Chinese interdiction of female address at the disbursal of a maternal heritage of rich imaginativeness. It takes old ages for Maxine to come to her right artistic voice.

At the terminal of The Woman Warrior, Maxine finishes her narrative of development with a return to her enation. This reconnection is mediated through that talk. narrative. The girl continues the narrative that her female parent has started “The beginning is hers, the stoping, mine” stating about T’sai Yen, a poet who had been abducted by a mobile folk, had two kids with the barbaric captain, and subsequently was ransomed back to China. T’sai Yen brought her vocal, “Eighteen Stanzas for a Barbarian Reed Pipe,” back, and it “translated well.” For Kingston, T’sai Yen is an emblem of the creative person par excellence, whose poetic power is capable of trans organizing a arm, the whistle pointer, into a musical instrument.

Like the transformed swordswoman in “White Tigers,” T’sai Yen is a word warrior who serves as a theoretical account for the writer of The Woman Warrior. Thus, the permeating narratives in The Woman Warrior supply a nexus between Kingston’s past and present. The cardinal metaphor of the book is a Chinese knot in which assorted strands are interwoven into a work of folk art. Kingston, as “an criminal knot-maker,” weaves the yesteryear and the present together into an intricate form to make her “mother book.”

By speaking narratives she successfully builds a enation to contrast the traditional Chinese agnation and unmuffles a personal yet rooted voice for herself. were supposed to be she decided to take the work forces’s stories out of her first book because they seemed to interfere with the Kingston wanted to name this male parent book “Gold Mountain Heroes.”

Later, nevertheless, she changed the rubric to China Men because she. feared the original rubric might corroborate a stereotyped construct that the early Chinese immigrants were simply gilded diggers. Furthermore, China Men, a actual interlingual rendition of the Chinese characters for Chinese, overturns the usage of the dyslogistic Chinamen. Hence Kingston’s neology at one time embattles the historical abuse of the Chinese immigrants and proudly acknowledges the hereditary roots of Chinese America.

The first political docket in China Men is to claim America for Chinese Americans. Directly influenced by William Carlos Williams’s In the American Grain ( 1925 ) , which she calls a life of America, Kingston intentionally starts her narrative in 1860, where Williams stopped, and carries the American narrative frontward. “In narrative after narrative Chinese-American people are claiming America, which goes all the manner from one character stating that a Chinese adventurer found this topographic point before Leif Ericsson did to another one purchasing a house here. Buying that house is a manner of stating that America -and non China is his state,” declared Kingston in a 1980 interview with Timothy Pfaff.

In China Men she extends the storyteller’s personal narrative to re-construct a household history, which in bend inquiries the “official” national history of America. Like the swordswoman in “White Tigers” who substitutes for her male parent in muster, the storyteller wages a lingual conflict to claim America for four coevalss of China work forces. In The Woman Warrior Maxine is weaving a strand of matrilinear line into agnation; in China Men she weaves her ain subjectiveness into the strands of work forces’s narratives. This “appropriation” of the male place besides presents a continuance of the word warrior’s “retaliation by study” proj

Kingston besides attempts to “educate” her readers. She compares China Men to “a six-layer nine sandwich or bar,” intertwining six contemporary narratives of her male relations with sketchs of myths. She intentionally leaves it up to her readers to calculate out the intertextual relationships of the myths and the modern narratives.

In the prologue, “On Discovery,” Kingston revises an episode from a classical Chinese love affair: while seeking for the Gold Mountain, Tang Ao gets trapped in the Land of Women. He is forced by a group of Amazons to hold his ears pierced, to hold his pess edge, and to function at the queen’s tribunal. In Tang Ao’s narrative Kingston embeds a double-edged unfavorable judgment of Chinese sexism and American racism. By foregrounding Tang Ao’s agony in his province ofeffeminization, Kingston created a feminist review of Chinese male chauvinist patterns and an fable of the emasculation of the Chinese immigrants in America.By opening the book with Tan Ao? ‘s narrative Kingston underlines her two chief ends in China Men: to recover the Chinese yesteryear and to review American history.

The storyteller of China Men identifies herself as a household historiographer with the self-assigned and sometimes distrubing undertaking of safekeeping household histories and memories. In a opportunity brush with her freshly immigrated aunt from Hong Kong, for illustration, the storyteller first feels reluctant to listen to the aunt’s horror narratives of the past, but so she recalls her “responsibility” : “I did non desire to hear how she suffered, and so I did.I did hold a responsibility to hear it and retrieve it.”

In Personal Statement Kingston negotiations about how adult females play the function of keeper and weaver of narratives, whereas work forces tend to estrange themselves from the yesteryear:  The work forces have problem maintaining Chinese ways in new lands. What good are the old narratives KWhy non be rid of the fabulous, and be a free American Claming an American birthright through storytelling, nevertheless, the daughter-storyteller proves the work forces? ‘s desire to bury the yesteryear to be mistaken. Kingston  rememory of household struggles exposes a history of favoritism and paves the manner for personal and communal healing.

Kingston is now learning in the English section at the University of California, Berkeley, and composing a book that is tentatively titled. The Fifth Book of Peace,  in which she writes about her male parent? ‘s decease and the loss of an earlier bill of exchange for the book in the 1991 Oakland fire. She links this fire thematically to the Vietnam War, composing about the war as it is represented by the supporter of Tripmaster Monkey and about her warrior adult female? ‘s heroic homecoming.

Kingston’s plants have enchanted and inspired many readers while enraging some others. No affair how her plants are received, Kingston succeeds in her retaliation by describing the offenses of sexism and racism. Despite her bantam physical stature, she deserves the rubric of a word warrior in every sense.


  1. Timothy Pfaff,  Talk With Mrs, . Kingston, New York Times Book Review, 19 June 1980, pp. 1, 25-27 ;
  2. Arturo Islas, Maxine Hong Kingston, in Women Writers of the West Coast: Speaking Their Lifes and Careers, edited by Marilyn Yalom ( Santa Barbara: Capra Press, (1983 ) , pp. 11-19 ;
  3. Phyllis Hodge Thompson,  This Is the Story I Heard: A Conversation with Maxine Hong Kingston, Biography, 6 ( Winter 1993 ) : 1-2 ;


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