Arthur Golden was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was educated at Harvard College, where he received a degree in art history, specializing in Japanese art. In 1980 he earned an M.A. in Japanese history from Columbia University, where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. Following a summer at Beijing University, he worked in Tokyo, and, after returning to the United States, earned an M.A. in English from Boston University. He resides in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.
"I wasn't born and raised to be a Kyoto geisha....I'm a fisherman's daughter from a little town called Yoroido on the Sea of Japan." How nine-year-old Chiyo, sold with her sister into slavery by their father after their mother's death, becomes Sayuri, the beautiful geisha accomplished in the art of entertaining men, is the focus of this fascinating first novel. Narrating her life story from her elegant suite in the Waldorf Astoria, Sayuri tells of her traumatic arrival at the Nitta okiya (a geisha house), where she endures harsh treatment from Granny and Mother, the greedy owners, and from Hatsumomo, the sadistically cruel head geisha. But Sayuri's chance meeting with the Chairman, who shows her kindness, makes her determined to become a geisha. Under the tutelage of the renowned Mameha, she becomes a leading geisha of the 1930s and 1940s. After the book's compelling first half, the second half is a bit flat and overlong. Still, Golden, with degrees in Japanese art and history, has brilliantly revealed the culture and traditions of an exotic world, closed to most Westerners. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/97.]‘Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
The life of a famous Kyoto geisha‘from her painful apprenticeship in the early 1930s through the years of her prime and her later career in Manhattan‘is rendered with stunning clarity in this fully imagined first novel. Golden effortlessly spins the tale as the dictated autobiography of quick-witted Chiyo Sakamoto, the daughter of a poor fisherman, who attains the pinnacle of geisha success. In the process, Golden evokes the spectrum of traditional Japanese society. Sold as a child by her financially desperate father, Chiyo is placed in a house for geisha as the personal maid to Hatsumomo, one of Kyoto's most sought-after geisha. There she is trained in the arts of dance, singing and the tea ceremony. Hatsumomo, however, threatened by Chiyo's beauty, treats her with unrestrained cruelty. Chiyo's position is one of indentured servitude: she may not leave until she has repaid all of her living expenses and even her original purchase cost. After many vicissitudes, Chiyo is transformed into a celebrated geisha called Sayuri; many men offer to be her danna (high-paying boyfriend), an honor that‘defying Western expectations‘does not include sex unless the geisha chooses so. Despite legions of admirers however, Chiyo/Sayuri secretly pines for an unattainable man. Golden splendidly renders the superficiality of geisha culture: the word geisha translates to "artist" or "artisan," and the women spend hours painting on porcelain make-up, caring for their beautifully hued silk kimonos and honing clever conversational skills. Counter to everything geisha are taught, Chiyo learns that her own feelings do matter, and honoring them results in a well-earned, intelligent and satisfyingly happy ending. Foreign rights sold in 11 countries; Random House audio; author tour. (Oct.)
"A startling debut.... By turns fairy tale, romance, coming of age
and historical first novel, Memoirs of a Geisha is an astounding
""A fascinating, poignant and entirely believable tale, as delicate, intricate and beautiful as the silk kimonos so central to the story.... Captivating ... lush [and] lyrical.... This is a luxurious book, every page fat with evocative, beautiful words.... If life is a simple stream, Memoirs of a Geisha is a shimmering pebble that makes the water dance."
-"The Toronto Sun
""A startling act of literary impersonation, a feat of cross-cultural masquerade on the order of Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day.... Golden's description of a kept woman's fleshly epiphanies has the purity of Colette."
""Cause for celebration.... Rarely has a world so closed and foreign been evoked with such natural assurance.... In the unforgettable Sayuri, Golden has found the heart and matter of a truth that lies beyond detail."
-"The New Yorker
""A truly engrossing story. The reader suffers, triumphs, dreams and doubts with the heroine, all the way through.... Beautifully written."
""Exceptional....This is one of those rare novels that evokes a vanished world with absolute conviction."
"From the Paperback edition."