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Give Monkey a Chance – The John Fowles Reading Series 2013

March 11, 2013

Celebrated author and peace activist Maxine Hong Kingston recently spoke at Chapman University as part of the John Fowles Center for Creative Writing reading series.

Kingston addressed a crowd of approximately 100, reading from her novel Woman Warrior and more recent autobiographical novel/political protest/stream-of-consciousness language romp The Fifth Book of Peace, relating, among other things, her experience getting arrested at an early protest against the Iraq invasion in 2003.

Bathed center-stage in the ghostly swirl of her own hair, Kingston’s whispery voice occassionally rocked the audience with asteroids of feedback. In her cadences and natural affection for the crowd it was easy to detect one of her literary heroes—Walt Whitman, the literary namesake of the fictional element of The Fifth Book of Peace and her earlier Tripmaster Monkey—Wittman Ah Sing.

Kingston invoked the patriotic cultural law-breaker several times by name, too, along with like-minded literary figures William Carlos Williams and Alice Walker.

The grandmotherly Kingston, with her face of warm wheat rolls, described how on International Woman’s Day in 2003, she, Alice Walker and 25 other women were arrested at a peaceful protest. The collected group was celebratory in its incarceration, smiling for photographers, and singing in the cells. The arresting officer of Alice Walker—a black man—was apparently heard to say, “My wife’s going to kill me for this.” At the station, the booking officer told the defiantly cheerful women, “This is your mug shot, not your prom picture.”

The episode coincided well with Kingston’s literary theme of the evening: the heritage of strong female leaders in China. And it proved she works as much as

John Fowles

John Fowles

she writes for her explicitly proclaimed life goal—peace.

The season’s remaining speakers for the John Fowles Center for Creative Writing reading series follows:

Mar. 11: ZULFIKAR GHOSE novelist, poet and essayist, the Pakistani native writes in the Latin American surrealist tradition and his numerous books include The Triple Mirror of the Self (1992), A New History of Torments (1982), Crump’s Terms (1975), The Incredible Brazilian (a trilogy), and The Murder of Aziz Khan (1967). He currently teaches creative writing at the University of Texas-Austin.

Apr 1: ANDREW LAM web editor of New America Media, author of the forthcoming Birds of Paradise, a collection of short stories, along with Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora, East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres. As a boy, Lam led a privileged life in Vietnam as the son of General Lâm Quang Thi of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam before attending the University of California, Berkeley. He currently lives in San Francisco.

 Apr. 15: KAREN YAMASHITA a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award, her novels include I Hotel (2010), Circle K Cycles (2001), Tropic of Orange (1997), Brazil-Maru (1992), and Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990). Yamashita is an Associate Professor of Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz, where she teaches creative writing and Asian American literature.

nominated for the National Book Circle Critic’s award for his first novel, How the Night is Divided, Matlin’s newest release is A Halfman Dreaming. His other poetry and prose includes the books China Beach, Dressed in a Protective Fashion,  and Fontana’s Mirror. He is a professor at San Diego State University.

All events are free, open to the public, and begin at 7 p.m. in the Henley Reading Room/Leatherby Libraries

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