Study Guide

Memoirs of a Geisha Family

By Arthur Golden


Geisha are masters at singing, dancing, and playing traditional Japanese music with the shamisen guitar or the tzuzumi drum. But we have to wonder if they ever put down the hand drum and pick up the disco ball to bust out a little Sister Sledge.

After all, Memoirs of a Geisha shows us that the hierarchy of geisha society is like a family—with mothers and daughters and sisters. We can picture them all singing, "We are family. We've got all our geisha with us." Okay, maybe not at the teahouse, but they might bust a move at home with their sister geisha.

Questions About Family

  1. Why do geisha use terms like "mother" and "sister" to describe their hierarchical structure?
  2. Does Sayuri feel like her geisha family is her real family?
  3. How does Sayuri feel about never seeing her family again? How is she able to make peace with the loss of her entire family? Do you ever think she'll see her sister again?

Chew on This

Geisha do their best to form a family unit because they no longer have contact with their real family. If they had a family, they wouldn't be geisha.

Once Chiyo leaves her family, no character in the book has a real family. All the geisha are without a family, and the men live lives separate from their families.