The author of Memoirs of a Geisha, he spent several years learning about the history of geisha before he published his book. He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and later did a degree in History of Art at Harvard, specialising in Japanese art. Then he went to Columbia University to do an M.A. in Japanese history. He also has an M.A. in English from Boston University and has learnt Mandarin. He married and had two children. He is living in Brookline, Massachusetts with his family. He teaches courses in literature and writing.

Memoirs of a geisha supposedly took ten years to write and had several versions. He received his first inspiration when he met the son a geisha, realising the value of his story. He had family problems, his parents divorcing - he came from the Sulzberger press dynasty. Supposedly the "Chairman" is linked to his own father, who was often absent from his life.

He says it is fiction but people do not read it in that way. They think that I did all those things. Mineko Iwasaki (Express, 30.3.2000)

His book was widely acclaimed but in 2001 one of the geisha he interviewed, Mineko Iwasaki, issued court papers in America to sue him for "misrepresenting her profession". Though the book was supposed to be fictional, it seems that he over-embellished the truth to boost the interest Western readers would have in the book.


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