Jillian's Reviews > Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
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's review
Jun 19, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction

The book in itself presents an interesting story, and makes for an entertaining read, but what bothers me about this book is that the vast majority of Western readers interpret it as a historically accurate memoir, when in fact it was written by an American author for an American audience, and therefore has achieved its success through appealing to and reinforcing the stereotypes about Japanese culture in America. Another reviewer on this website writes, "It is a wonderful introduction to... Japanese culture," illustrating how many Western readers (including countless personal friends) interpret the lifestyle and culture depicted in Memoirs of a Geisha as absolute historical fact.

In the tradition of Ruth Benedict's The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Golden presents Japan and Japanese culture as "exotic" and "strange," reinforcing the major theses of the Nihonjinron (which literally means "theories about the Japanese") genre..

When looking at ever-popular images of a lone, white man in a crowded Tokyo street, many Westerners see the surrounding Japanese as identical to one another, and inherently different from that white man and his native culture, a belief that Golden's novel only serves to perpetuate. What disappoints me the most is that Golden holds a degree in Japanese History, and still the inaccuracies and stereotypes that he was raised with win out over historical fact in his writing. In conclusion, Golden presents an interesting story in Memoirs of a Geisha that should only be read if the reader is prepared to believe none of it.

Additional readings: Yellow by Frank H. Wu, Orientalism by Edward W. Said
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02/14/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Meaghan Although I agree that most of the facts in Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha were inaccurate, I disagree with your poor review. It says plain as day on the cover of the book: "A novel." If westerners wish to interpret what they read as fact, that is not the author's fault. This novel, in my opinion, was beautifully written, and quite gripping.

message 2: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue vast majority of Western readers interpret it as a historically accurate memoir,

"The vast majority of western readers" know what fiction is. See previous comment

message 3: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue .....I believe the vast majority know what fiction is

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