'This engrossing and very human story...offers the reader a compelling portrait' Arthur Golden
Sayo Masuda died in 2008. The translator G. G. Rowley teaches English and Japanese literature at Waseda University in Tokyo. She is the author of Yosano Akiko and The Tale of Genji.
Masuda's account of being a geisha in rural Japan at a hot springs resort is at once intriguing and heartbreaking. There is nothing idyllic in her description of geisha training or life between the world wars. Born in 1925, Masuda was sent to work for a wealthy landowner when she was five. At 12, she was sold to a geisha house for about 30 yen, the price of a bag of rice. During those years, Masuda writes, "I wasn't even able to wonder why I didn't have any parents or why I should be the only one who was tormented. If you ask me what I did know then, it was only that hunger was painful and human beings were terrifying." Originally published in Japan in 1957, where it is still in print, this book grew out of an article that Masuda, who didn't learn to read and write until she was in her 20s, submitted for a contest in Housewife's Companion magazine. Her picaresque adventures as a geisha, then mistress, factory worker, gang moll and caretaker for her young brother offer an impassioned plea for valuing children. "Never give birth to children thoughtlessly!" she writes. "That is why, stroke by faltering stroke, I've written all this down." (May) FYI: While Arthur Golden's fictional Memoirs of a Geisha (1997) continues to be the yardstick against which all other books on the geisha world are measured, Masuda's account is a worthy complement. Readers interested in this culture will probably have already seen Atria's Geisha, a Life (Forecasts, Sept. 9, 2002) and Gotham's Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha Who Bewitched the West (Forecasts, Jan. 20). Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This most recent geisha boom comes with a difference. While
Golden's novel skillfully utilises, and feeds into, clich-s of the
Madame Butterfly variety, these two new publications can be seen as
part of an attempt...to break the gendered orientalist gaze and
unravel some enduring stereotypes. Masuda's gripping, heart-rending
and humorous account is a gem, especially as it offers a view "from
below" of the untold social history of modern Japan * Times
Literary Review *
An unvarnished firsthand look into the world of a woman who unflinchingly relates the bitter struggle of her geisha existence in pre-World War II Japan. This is a fascinating and heart-rending tale -- Liza Dalby
Masuda's account of being a geisha in rural Japan at a hot springs resort is at once intriguing and heartbreaking. While Arthur Golden's fictional Memoirs of a Geisha continues to be the yardstick against which all other books on the geisha world are measured, Masuda's account is a worthy complement * Publishers Weekly *