Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, Leslie Silko: The Chinese Connection

February 6, 2012

In 1985 Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Leslie Silko traveled together to China, going up the Li River in a boat.

Kingston and Silko have now come out with new books — Kingston, I Love a Broad Margin to My Life; and Silko, The Turquoise Ledge.  The three women reunited at 92nd Street Y, with Morrison introducing the other two.

Both memoirs seem to loop back to that China trip — the country, the companionship.   Kingston says that her book is laid out like a Chinese scroll, with no beginning, middle and end.  “My book folded time into time, just like you think,” she tells Morrison, and adds, “Toni sees a painting when she writes.  She sees lines of red over there and green and blue dots up here and white down there.  That’s how she works, that’s how I work.”

Silko’s The Turquoise Ledge talks a lot about the animal populations in Tucson, especially the snakes getting in and out of the house.   She  says that in China, “I went to this museum where they had old pottery from a 6000 B.C. Chinese site.  They had painted black and white pottery with the black paint on it like Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon.  It’s just like the 1200 A.D, pottery from the country where I’m from.  What the Chinese call the dragon was the water serpent on the pottery.  I was so amazed that I even copied it in a little sketch book.  So, I think I’ve always been fascinated by the power of snakes.”

Snakes: lines of red and blue and white and green dots, all connected.  Maybe all writing is like that?

About wcd2

Professor of English and American Studies
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