Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it.
At age twelve, Julie was initiated into the rite of the Sunday brunch, a weekly madhouse at her father’s Milwaukee-based restaurant, where she and her eight older siblings before her did service in a situation of controlled chaos, learning the ropes of the family business and, more important, learning life lessons that would shape them for all the years to come. In her wry memoir, she looks back on those formative years, a time not just of growing up but, ultimately, of becoming a source of strength and support as the world her father knew began to change into a tougher, less welcoming place.