Author Q’A’s in Cathedral

By Becky Reiser

Barack Obama is pretty much Charles Dickens. At least that’s what award-winning author Maxine… Barack Obama is pretty much Charles Dickens. At least that’s what award-winning author Maxine Hong Kingston told students gathered in the Cathedral of Learning yesterday. Kingston, who won the National Book Critics Circle Award, visited Pitt as part of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series. She read from her book ‘The Woman Warrior’ on Monday night in David Lawrence Hall and hosted a question-and-answer session for students in the Cathedral of Learning on Tuesday afternoon. The author said that she tries to use her writing to influence others. She’s currently reviewing two books by Sen. Barack Obama, ‘Dreams from My Father’ and ‘The Audacity of Hope.’ Kingston said that she hopes that she ‘can put her National Book Award to use,’ that if people see her name next to positive reviews of Obama’s book, they’ll be convinced to vote for him. Kingston said Obama writes in the same style as Victorian novelist Charles Dickens. She said Obama’s first book reminded her of Dickens’ novel ‘David Copperfield.’ Kingston said she admires Obama’s ability to ‘contemplate his own life and the life around him. He carries his thinking deep.’ Kingston, an internationally known author, has also written several books on her Chinese-American culture and gender roles. Gender is ‘out of balance in our world,’ award-winning author Maxine Hong Kingston said. ‘ For example, take the term ‘chick lit,’ she said, adding that ‘chick lit’ is code for love stories that women typically read. Kingston said she believes that ‘men should read love stories, as well.’ English writing major Luree Miller described Kingston’s writing as ‘an interesting mix of memoir and fantasy.’ Kingston also gave students insight on a variety of topics. She told the audience that the ’emotional charge behind writing or the raw energy’ is what drives a work of literature. ‘When an author recreates a scene [that has happened to them],’ said Kingston, ‘they will recreate what it means.’ She added that there are many ways to go about the ‘overwhelming’ writing process. ‘I decide to write in movements, like music,’ she said. ‘I divide it out by so many days ‘hellip; so I know if I write nine lines a day, I’ll be all right.’ Kingston said completing a 200-page book can take two years. She added that the writing process is built into writers ‘like sex,’ complete with a climax. Kingston also described her experiences interviewing female veterans who were raped by their fellow soldiers. Many of the women committed suicide as a result. Kingston said that these interviews completely changed her views on the world, war and gender. Kingston said that the women interviewed did not want their names or stories used. ‘They never came out with happy endings,’ she said. ‘I always push for happy endings.’