Introduction & Overview of On Discovery

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On Discovery Summary & Study Guide Description

On Discovery Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Further Reading on On Discovery by Maxine Hong Kingston.

"On Discovery" was first published in 1980 in Maxine Hong Kingston's second book, China Men, Along with another vignette, "On Fathers," "On Discovery," serves as a prologue to the family stories and histories contained within the volume. A blend of history, fiction, myth, and autobiography, China Men is a companion volume to Kingston's groundbreaking 1976 work, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts. The story of a Chinese sojourner, or traveler, who makes several ironic discoveries in his search for an Idealized America called Gold Mountain, "On Discovery" was highly acclaimed, as was the rest of China Men. Nominated for the 1980 Pulitzer Prize, China Men won both the American Book Award and the National Critics Circle Award.

Born in Stockton, California to Chinese immigrants, Kingston often integrates autobiographical elements with Chinese myths and fictionalized history to explore cultural conflicts confronting Americans of Chinese descent. Her work draws upon several sources: the ordeals of the Chinese immigrants who endured exploitation as they labored on American railroads and plantations; the "talk-stones," or oral tales of mythic heroes and family histories told by her mother; and her own experiences as a first-generation American. China Men is an attempt to understand her silent father, who never spoke of the past, and to tell the story of what happened to him and other Chinese men who immigrated to America. "What I am doing in this new book is churning America," explained Kingston in a 1980 New York Times Book Review interview. Written as part fairy tale and part history, "On Discovery" not only foregrounds the discrimination that faced Kingston's father and his forebears in America, but it also hints at the complexities of American racism and Chinese cultural misogyny that would be explored throughout China Men.

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Short Stories for Students
On Discovery from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.