Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it.
In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.
Golden is a member of the Ochs-Sulzberger family (owners of the New York Times). He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, grew up on Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and attended Lookout Mountain Elementary School in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. He spent his middle and high school years at the Baylor School (then a boys-only school for day and boarding students) in Chattanooga, graduating in 1974. He attended Harvard University and received a degree in art history, specializing in Japanese art. In 1980, he earned an M.A. in Japanese history at Columbia University, and also learned Mandarin Chinese. After a summer at Peking University in Beijing, China, he worked in Tokyo. When he returned to the United States, he earned an M.A. in English at Boston University. He currently lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. He has a son (Hays Golden) and a daughter (Tess Golden) who recently graduated from Brown University.
After its release in 1997, Memoirs of a Geisha spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list. It has sold more than four million copies in English and has been translated into thirty-two languages around the world.
The novel Memoirs of a Geisha was written over a 10-year period during which Golden rewrote the entire novel three times, changing the point of view before finally settling on the first person viewpoint of Sayuri. Interviews with a number of geisha, including Mineko Iwasaki, provided background information about the world of the geisha.
After the Japanese edition of Memoirs of a Geisha was published, Golden was sued for breach of contract and defamation of character by Iwasaki. The plaintiff claimed that Golden had agreed to protect her anonymity, if she told him about her life as a geisha due to the traditional code of silence about their clients. The lawsuit was settled out of court in February 2003.
In 2005, Memoirs of a Geisha was made into a feature film starring Ziyi Zhang and Ken Watanabe, and directed by Rob Marshall, garnering three Academy Awards.