I Love a Broad Margin to My Life
By Maxine Hong Kingston
"In her singular voice 'humble, elegiac, practical,' Maxine Hong Kingston sets out to reflect on aging as she turns sixty-five. Kingston's swift, effortlessly flowing verse lines feel instantly natural in this fresh approach to the art of memoir, as she circles from present to past and back, from lunch with a writer friend to the funeral of a Vietnam veteran, from her long marriage ('can't divorce until we get it right. / Love, that is. Get love right') to her arrest at a peace march in Washington, where she and her 'sisters' protested the Iraq war in the George W. Bush years. Kingston embraces Thoreau's notion of a 'broad margin,' hoping to expand her vista: 'I'm standing on top of a hill; / I can see everywhichway / the long way that I came, and the few / places I have yet to go. Treat / my whole life as if it were a day.'
"On her journeys as writer, peace activist, teacher, and mother, Kingston revisits her most beloved characters: she learns the final fate of her Woman Warrior, and she takes her Tripmaster Monkey, a hip Chinese American, on a journey through China, where he has never been, a trip that becomes a beautiful meditation on the country then and now, on a culture where rice farmers still work in the age-old way, even as a new era is dawning. 'All over China,' she writes, 'and places where Chinese are, populations / are on the move, going home. That home / where Mother and Father are buried. Doors / between heaven and earth open wide.' Such is the spirit of this wonderful book; a sense of doors opening wide onto an American life of great purpose and joy, and the tonic wisdom of a writer we have come to cherish."