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Glass Geishas by Susanna Quinn

glass geishasSusanna Quinn’s Glass Geishas is a compelling and cautionary tale. Just reading the sub-heading: “Every Girls Has Her Price,” I was drawn in. From the first lines of the prologue, “Breathe in, Breathe out,” I felt like I fell down a rabbit hole. What world had I tumbled into?

The stories of young blond Western girls made me think of my hometown of Hollywood, where naive young girls hope to make it “big”. The mystery of “Where is Annabelle?” and the drama of Julia not knowing Steph, and the many parallels of Mrs. Sato’s daughter, and Mama-san’s desire to support her missing daughter all create a fascinating read. I rooted for the main character, Steph, at every turn and could not put this book down.

I had no idea that this adventure to Roppongi, Tokoyo, would be so captivating. Iranian drug lords, Japanese men on the prowl, and Club Dandy men where women pay $1000 for a night of secret passions, all opened my eyes to scenes I couldn’t believe existed, even my travels to over 100 countries.

This sad, searing portrait of the search for easy money to restart your dreams, and the bewildering maze of lost youth, drugs and foreign lands is fantastic. Each woman’s voice is individual yet it seems each is telling the same tale from similar windows: past, present, future. While an entertaining read, it is also an instructive tale. Be true to yourself and to the hard work that are required to make your dreams come true.

As Chastity says: “Roppongi’s like a trap, that’s what they say and it’s true. You try to get out but the easy money and the easy work…” The nature of an easy life and how one becomes a good person or a good daughter (or a good geisha) are reoccurring themes. Every girl is someone’s daughter. We are all part of the same human family, and so what is our responsibility to and for each other? As Mrs. Kimono states, “Money is worthless if you have given your soul away.” What is the price of the easy life, debts, and drinks and dreams? Our lives are a result of the choices we have made, and in this book with the stories are woven together like a tapestries of sadness, broken connections and new beginnings.

Mrs. Kimono tells Steph: “The Western girls that work in that place [Calamity Janes]. Glass geishas I call them. Fragile. Breakable. Empty. Roppongi is a place to stay if you don’t want to grow up. But it’s not a place to live. You can’t be a maiko for ever.

I know that many American girls end up in Hollywood hoping to make their dreams come true. After reading this story I saw that many British girls make an analogous pilgrimage to Japan for the hostess trade, instead of trying to make it in movies. Quinn suggests looking at www.missingabroad.org to learn more about the issues in this novel. For all young women looking for a way to start their life again and make their dreams come true,

To close with Steph’s words: “It’s thanks to her I’m not hiding from life anymore. I’m living for real now. I hope she knows I listened.Make your dreams come true! It will be worth the effort.

More book reviews by Lisa Niver Rajna

Article first published as Susanna Quinn’s Glass Geishas on Technorati.

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About

Lisa Ellen Niver, MA is a teacher, traveler, author, speaker and social media ninja who has traveled to over 100 countries and six continents. She is a frequent author in the Huffington Post, USA Today, Wharton Business Magazine, National Geographic, The Jewish Journal among many other publications. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel, a global online community of over 1400 writers with articles from every continent. As a 2012 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, she received commendations from US Senator Barbara Boxer as well as Fran Pavley, Holly Mitchell, Eric Garcetti from California State Senate, and Assembly, and the Los Angeles City Council. She founded in 2009 the Los Angeles Science Teachers Network with teachers participating from over 70 schools, runs the Science Isn't Scary website and operated the Simply Science camp. She was featured on KTLA National TV on the program Career Day, a show that shares great careers for teens and was invited to speak as an expert on three different radio programs about global citizens, international education and the PISA test. She holds MA. and M.Ed degrees in education and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania. She is certified in California single and multiple subjects. She is currently working on the new Nickelodeon television show, Bella and the Bulldogs.

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