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 is the author of Memoirs of a Geisha, which was adapted into a film in 2005. He resides in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.
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Q: What sparked your interest in the subject of geisha?
A: I studied Japanese language and culture in college and graduate school, and afterward went to work in Tokyo, where I met a young man whose father was a famous businessman and whose mother was a geisha. He and I never discussed his parentage, which was an open secret, but it fascinated me. After returning to the U.S., I began work on a novel in which I tried to imagine this young man's childhood. Gradually I found myself more interested in the life of the mother than the son and made up my mind to write a novel about a geisha.
I read everything I could find on the subject, in English and in Japanese, and ended up writing an 800 page first draft focusing on five years in the life of a Kyoto geisha shortly after World War II. Then as I prepared to revise the manuscript, a longtime Japanese friend of my grandmother's offered to introduce me to a Kyoto geisha named Mineko--retired already at the age of 42 and evidently willing to talk to me. I flew to Japan to meet with her, not at all certain what to expect. I worried she might spend an afternoon chatting with me about the sights and then ...
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