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.

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. She sailed the seven seas by cruise ship for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. Find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over one and a quarter million views (1,250,000) on her YouTube channel. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries, named #3 on the top 1000 Travel Blogs and the top female travel blogger 3 times in 2019. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and has over 160,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and also ran fifteen travel competitions publishing over 2500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on her own site, We Said Go Travel. From 2017 to 2020 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won three times and been a finalist fourteen times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards. She was also a finalist for four other categories including online journalist of the year, digital story for activism journalism with Ms. Magazine, educational reporting for Wharton Magazine and a broadcast lifestyle feature for KTLA TV in Los Angeles.    Niver won a 2019 NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award for one of her KTLA TV segments and was a finalist for articles published in both Ms. Magazine and Wharton Magazine. In 2018,  she was a finalist for stories in Smithsonian, PopSugar Fitness and the Saturday Evening Post. Niver won a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal and was a finalist for travel reporting. Niver has written for AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres (United Airlines), Jewish Journal, Luxury Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Myanmar Times, National Geographic, POPSUGAR, Robb Report, Saturday Evening Post, Scuba Diver Life, Sierra Club, Ski Utah, Smithsonian, TODAY, Trivago, USA Today 10best, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave Rebel: 50 Scary Challenges Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. Look for her underwater SCUBA diving, in her art studio making ceramics or helping people find their next dream trip.  http://lisaniver.com/one-page/

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