Your Last Name2
Being an Immigrant
The Woman Warrior is a Maxine Hong Kingston’s autobiographiccollection of several short stories that explore her stay inCalifornia. It depicts the lives of Chinese Americans and theirinteractions with their traditional parents. On the other hand, Drownis the first short story collection by Junot Diaz: a DominicanAmerican author. The Woman Warrior and Drown differ in the way eachtraces the lives of the immigrants from their native countries andtheir stay in America. For instance, Drown is centered on the absentmasculinity and the immigrants disregard for their culturaltraditions in their chase for the American dream. On the other hand,the Woman Warrior explores the belittling of the female gender andthe Chinese holding on to their culture and family values. However,the two novels agree on the issues of the plight of the immigrants inAmerica. This paper asserts that in Drown, the Dominicans aredepicted as discarding their identity while in The Woman Warrior,the Chinese are portrayed as torn between holding on and letting gotheir cultural identity.
The Woman Warrior depicts the female gender as voiceless. In thestory, the author demonstrates how the interplay between class, race,and gender disadvantage women. Evidence of how women tend to bemistreated by the society is present throughout the novel. Forinstance, the narrator’s long-forgotten aunt is victimized by hersociety as she is accused of being an adulterer. For this reason, thenarrator thinks, “we would’ve failed if we grew up to be butwives or slaves” (Kingston, 18). As such, the narrator hasundertaken a journey to challenge the status quo. According toJhajhari and Beniwal in the article Braving out in the Face ofConstraints: The Woman Warrior, “Kingston’s mainproject in The Woman Warrior is to avenge female oppression byreporting stories about women in her family” (253). The narratoractively questions the Chinese traditions as passed on to her andonly embraces the positive ones. Besides, the gender identity in theWoman Warrior is evident in the use of terms such as “maggots” bythe men.
On the other hand, in Junot Diaz’s Drown, masculinity is masked asa result of the immigration culminating in the tension experienced bythe young boys. While in the Latin American context masculinityentails the manliness that overpowers, Diaz depicts this aspect ofthe male gender as absent in the society as a result of immigration.For instance, when Yunior and Rafa are on the search for Ysrael, theyfound him in the field playing with a beautiful kit. Ysrael tells thetwo brothers that he had received the kit from his father who worksin New York and then Yunior says, “Our Father’s there too”(Diaz, 16). John Riofrioin the article, Situating Latin American masculinity: Immigration,empathy and emasculation, “from this conversation,the audience learns that the young boys lack a fatherly figure as theDominican men were prompted by poverty to move to the U.S in searchof greener pastures” (25). The young boys have to construct theirvision of masculinity with the help of the few remaining men.
Both The Woman Warrior and Drown shares a similarity in the way theydepict the society treating women as second-class citizen. Forexample, the boys chasing Ysrael tells him, “We are going to makeyou a girl” (Diaz, 156). Thus, while in Drown masculinity isdepicted as absent, femininity is belittled and associated witheverything that is bad.
In The woman warrior, cultural traditions are both a source ofembarrassment and pride for the narrator. Jhajharia and Beniwal saythat “China is depicted as a country of strict rules (254). It isevident that the narrator has so much pride for the old Chinesevalues. However, the narrator loathes some of the Chinese traditionssuch as the marriage customs that according to her makes a woman aslave.On the other hand, in Drown particularly in the storytitled, How to Date a Brown Girl, Diaz depicts the Dominican cultureas something to be entirely embarrassed about. The gist of thenarrator’s dating guide is that one’s ethnicity works againstthem in the dating arena. For instance, the narrator advises hisaudience to “take down the embarrassing photos of your family inthe campo, especially the one with half naked kids dragging a goat ora rope leash” (How to Date a Brown Girl, 1). It is evident that thenarrator has to hide some artifacts that would betray his Dominicanorigin. Besides, the narrator advises his audiences that some levelof imitating the Whites to hide one`s background could help whendating white girls.
In both The Woman Warrior and Drown, the minorities occupy the lowestsocial class and lacks necessities. The Chinese immigrants in Americaare portrayed as voiceless from the unfair treatment by themainstream culture. For instance, the silence that is part of theChinese Americans lives is evident when the narrator is told by hermother, “you must not tell anyone…What I am about to tell you”(Kingston, 3). The Chinese Americans silence was as a result of theanti-Asian immigration laws that forbade the Chinese from gainingfull citizenship and thus, curtailing their economic progress. InDiaz’s Drown, the Dominicans are depicted as occupying the lowestsocial class as compared to other minorities such as the blacks.Besides, the Dominican-Americans impoverished live is evident inDrown. The narrator advises, “clear the government cheese from therefrigerator” (How to Date a Brown Girl, 1). The presence ofgovernment cheese and the fact that the narrator wants to hide hisidentity to get a girl shows that the Dominicans perceive othergroups as superior.
In The Woman Warrior education is deemed as crucial, although it isdepicted as a reserve of the male gender. As a result, the narrator’smother is a symbol of the few extraordinary women who overcome theconstraints placed by the society against female education. Despitethe limitation placed on the female education, some of the educatedwomen in the novel are depicted as warriors. For example, uponcompleting her education, Ding Ling’s mother started two schools inthe city of Changsha. In Drown, education is for everyone, and it isevident that segregation against the immigrants has declined. Forinstance, the narrator talks about a white girl who “might givejust give it up right away” and a halfie who might “lean back,breaking away from you” (How to Date a Brown Girl, 2). All thesegirls the narrator dates schools with him, and this shows that by thetime the Dominican were migrating to the U.S segregation in schoolshad eased up.
In The Woman Warrior, storytelling is depicted as part of the familytradition. The narrator learns the art of telling stories from hermother. The narrator learns family values such as hard work,sacrifice, and heroism through the story of the Chinese femalelegends. In Drown, the family is depicted as ridden by promiscuitythat is passed on to the young children. For instance, Tio says aboutYunior “back in Santo Domingo he`d be getting laid by now (Diaz,131). Besides, growing up the narrator and his Dominican friends areforced to witness members of their family cheating on their wives.However, in both the Woman Warrior and Drown, the authors depict howthe immigrant families learn to exclude people from other descents.In The Woman Warrior, the narrator and her mother have the traditionof calling other people “Ghost” to mean people outside their areaof origin. Besides, in the short story Negocios, Romano lives inNilda’s household, even if he had a wife and children.
In conclusion, The Woman Warrior shows how deep-rooted the Chineseculture is to the extent that it has an impact on children born inAmerica to Chinese Immigrants. On the other hand, the Dominicanculture is already ailing as evident in the widespread promiscuityand the absent masculinity that results in young boys finding theirown way into manhood. Despite the two groups of immigrants facingsimilar plights in regards to occupying the lowest social andeconomic status, the Dominicans are depicted as having suffered lessin the hands of the dominant culture. However, the Dominicans havesuffered even more in regards to the erosion of their identity asthey interact with other minorities as well as the dominant whites.
Díaz, Junot.Drown.  NewYork: Riverhead (1997).
HongKingston, Maxine. The Woman Warrior. NewYork: Alfred Knopf (1976).
Jhajharia,Sangeeta, and Mamta Beniwal. "Braving out in the Face ofConstraints: The Woman Warrior." InternationalJournal of Social Science and Humanity 2.3(2012): 252.
Riofrio,John. "Situating Latin American masculinity: Immigration,empathy and emasculation in Junot Diaz’s Drown." Atenea 28.1(2008): 23-36.