Great book. I had finished "Memoirs of a Geisha" right before reading this and loved that one also. Memoirs is fiction, while this is autobiographical so there are differences in the details. The story is told beautifully and gives a great peek into the life of a real geisha. It dispels a lot of myths and misconceptions that people have. Definitely worth the read - especially if you are interested in that aspect of Japanese culture.
This is an interesting memoire in which a woman who describes herself as one of the pre-eminent geishas of post-war Japan describes how she came to be a geisha (or geiko) as well as what her training was to achieve the title. Since it isn't fiction it's devoid of drama but full of interesting facts about a life inside a compound of powerful women living much more complex and empowered lives than you might guess.
It was interesting to read a personal, real-life story of a geisha. If you've read or plan to read Memoirs of a Geisha or any book like that, it's fun to be able to compare fact and fiction. Even if you haven't or won't read a fictional geisha story, it's still interesting to read a first-hand account about the lives of geisha and everything from the what is demanded of them, their day-to-day lives, and even how much their kimono may cost. Overall, a good read if you're interested in geisha or Japanese culture. There are several pages of photographs as well.
Also, this is the same book as Geisha of Gion. The book was published as Geisha, A Life in the U.S. and Geisha of Gion in the UK.
One of the most inside-full books of the Geisha profession. I recommend this book to anyone with interest into other cultures!
From age five, Iwasaki trained to be a geisha (or, as it was called in her Kyoto district, a geiko), learning the intricacies of a world that is nearly gone. As the first geisha to truly lift the veil of secrecy about the women who do such work (at least according to the publisher), Iwasaki writes of leaving home so young, undergoing rigorous training in dance and other arts and rising to stardom in her profession. She also carefully describes the origins of Kyoto's Gion Kobu district and the geiko system's political and social nuances in the 1960s and '70s. Although it's an autobiography, Iwasaki's account will undoubtedly be compared to the stunning fictional description of the same life in Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. Lovers of Golden's work-and there are many-will undoubtedly pick this book up, hoping to get the true story of nights spent in kimono. Unfortunately, Iwasaki's work suffers from the comparison. Her writing style, refreshingly straightforward at the beginning, is far too dispassionate to sustain the entire story. Her lack of reflection and tendency toward mechanical description make the work more of a manual than a memoir. In describing the need to be nice to people whom she found repulsive, she writes, "Sublimating one's personal likes and dislikes under a veneer of gentility is one of the fundamental challenges of the profession." Iwasaki shrouds her prose in this mask of objectivity, and the result makes the reader feel like a teahouse patron: looking at a beautiful, elegant woman who speaks fluidly and well, but with never a vulnerable moment.
A fascinating read. It has been criticized for not being as descriptive as the Memoirs of a Geisha. I find this funny since it is actually a memoir and not a work of fiction. I've read both and find this book engaging.
I LOVE this book because Memoirs of a Geisha is my all time favorite book (read it like 20 times). Mineko Iwasaki (author of Geisha, A Life) is what Memoirs is (supposedly) based off of. If you read both you might notice names from her real story are incorporated in the fiction version.
I decided to review this book because I just found Geisha, A Life in my collection and it had a cut out article in it from a magazine the year before it was published. Here's what it says:
THE REAL GEISHA
Mineko Iwasaki, purportedly the model for the narrator of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, is going to tell her own story-and according to her agent, her decision has nothing to do with the lawsuit the retired geisha recently brought against Golden and Random House in which Iwasaki claimed the book hurt her reputation and that she is owed royalties (Random House disputes the claim). "It's absolutely seperate-she wanted to tell her own story," says Jandy Nelson of Manus & Associates. "We have never seen the world of geishas from a nonfiction angle," says Emily Bestler, the executive editorial director of Pocket, which paid mid-six figures for the memoir.
-Matthew Flamm, Entertainment Weekly, June 8, 2001
Interesting, eh? So anyone who read Memoirs and liked it, I definitely recommend this book. It was fun to compare the two books. They both are excellent reads!
This was a really nice book. It was interesting to read a first hand account of what it was actually like to be a Geisha, and to have a lot of the myths separated from facts. Mineko Iwasaki even makes a point to clear up common myths about Geisha's. There isn't a whole lot of drama but it's still an entertaining read.
This book was a very easy read and informative. It is more of a memoir than a fictional book like Memoirs of a Geisha. I think it gives a better idea of the true nature of a geisha and the disposition of the Japanese.
A wonderfully detailed book about the life of a Modern Geisha. Mineko is courageous and alarmingly truthful in describing her life, from age 6 on, in the house of the Geiko. And her brutal facts of the harsh and dog eat dog world of the Geisha will leave you astounded.
Never before has the average person been able to have a glimpse into this mysterious world.
I read this for a memoir swap and fell in love with all the characters. Very much like "Memoirs of a Geisha" but talks about what happened after WW2 instead of pre-WW2 which is what era Memoirs of a Geisha covered. I loved the pictures she included, and the ending as well. Highly recommended! I may have to buy another copy of it for my keeper shelf!
Geisha: A Life was a very good read... actually it is Mineko's biography from the time she was 5 years of age... Detailed life becoming a Geisha and the Japanese artistic culture... She also has questions and answers section as well a reader's club guide to help you along... Not to mention many photos in b/w as well as color... dg
This is a fascinating autobiography. Mineko Iwasaki chose to leave her familys home at 5 years old and be adopted into the Iwasaki family as the heir to their geisha house. She spent the next 25 years immersing herself in traditional art forms, eventually becoming the most famous and acclaimed geiko (the more specific term that geishas use to refer to themselves) of her generation. When Arthur Golden was researching his Memoirs of a Geisha book, he interviewed her and used her story as his inspiration. She was totally pissed at the way he sensationalized and sexualized geishas and ignored their passion for and dedication to the arts. So she wrote this autobiography to help correct the misunderstandings about what a geiko does and how the system and its associated industries actually work.
Their dedication to their arts is astounding. Mineko does a really good job of laying out the stages a geiko goes through in her career and the incredible variety of skills she has to master for her profession. Minekos specialty was dance, but throughout her life as a geiko she continually took lessons for musical instruments, calligraphy, and flower arrangement. Eventually, Mineko became frustrated with the way the system that had originally been set up to support the women and help them maintain their independence and enable them to focus entirely on their art has become, over the centuries, calcified and so restrictive its ended up getting in the way of that dedication to art. But even though she retired as a geiko, Mineko hasnt stopped dancing and her love of the arts actually introduced her to her husband, an artist in his own right.
I read Memoirs of a Geisha years ago and it really bothered me, because it did feel like it sensationalized things and focused entirely on sex, but it was really well written and engaging (which somehow made it worse). I liked how this book not only laid out what a geiko actually does in a very clear way that even someone with no familiarity with Japanese culture and traditions can understand. She talked about not only the lessons, but also the relationships between the geisha houses and teahouses, what the parts of the geikos outfits mean and why theyre important, and the roles of all the people whose industries geiko depend on to enable them to perform their arts. She also explores some of the reasons there are so many misconceptions about what geishas actually do, such as similar use of terminology that leads to mixing up geiko traditions with those of courtesans.
Overall, this was a really enjoyable book. Its a fasinating look into a complicated, primarily female world. And I just admire the hell out of the dedication and determination it takes for these women to practice their arts.
I read this book after being introduced to the geisha (geiko) world by Memoirs of a Geisha. After reading this book, I realized that how geisha are portrayed in Western culture is not the real truth. For one thing, geisha are not "high-class prostitutes" as we are often lead to believe. I loved this book because it gives so many details into the geiko culture. I really enjoyed reading the detailed descriptions of hair ornaments and kimonos. The photo inserts were an added bonus, but poorly placed within the book. Most of the photos accompanied parts of the story later within the book so it ruined a bit of the surprise. Overall this was a very interesting story and very informative as well.
It was a fascinating look at a different culture and everyday life as a Geisha. I didn't care very much for the writing style and thought she went into too much detail at times. However, if you are interested in Japanese society, I would recommend this book.
This story is the true story of Mineko Iwasaki who was a Geisha for several years. She shares her life experience growning up and how she became a Geisha. I found the story to be very fasinating as she tells how the different individuals who shaped her and her drive to succeed.
This is a delightful story about a most successful woman who chooses to change her lifestyle at age 29. The author was trained from the age of 6, learned many lessons of life and talks in frankness about her life as a geisha. Very good read!
The life of a geisha was not what I expected. This is a story of a very young girl who goes to live in a geisha house to train to be a geisha - not a prostitute. I really enjoyed this look into a world surrounded in a mystery.
Interesting information on the life & lifestyle of a Geisha. Becoming a Geisha is an art & this book educates the reader on the history. Shocked by the amount of money Mineko Iwasaki made during her career. Good read!