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