Connie Cann's Reviews > Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
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Jul 09, 2012

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Read in July, 2012

I enjoyed reading Memoirs of a Geisha because it feels authentic; the analogies and idioms Golden uses to describe Chiyo/Sayuri's experience remind me of the way Chinese women in my family tell stories. The memoir motif, though it feels personal and at times, poetic, is why I cannot rate this at five stars. It reads like a memoir, like Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior, but it is hard to get over that Memoirs of a Geisha was written by a white, American, middle-aged man, who went to Harvard and did not experience any of the circumstances in this book. I'm not saying I have never loved books with female narrators written by men (see The Fault in Our Stars); however, with this particular book, so entrenched in what it means to have been a woman in this setting, and purposefully labelled a "memoir" in the title rather than a fiction, I could not help but read it through the lens of a male scholar and wonder: is he trying to fetishize the geisha? What is it that interests him in the story of a geisha? Memoirs of a Geisha is a fascinating story full of rich metaphor, but I would not recommend reading it directly after an actual memoir, like Min's Red Azalea, because it cannot compare.
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Marie Clair I liked your Review because you told me something I didn't know; 'written by a middle-aged American man.' Amazing! I enjoyed the book, he did a great job.
Having worked as what I might term, 'sacred prostitution,' myself and written about it in context with my entire search for identity and meaning, I no longer see Geisha as 'romantic'. t the same time I value the experience as a finger pointing to the moon. In that sense, precious, in deed. Without darkness, light is irrelevant. marie clair


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