The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Arthur Golden


Author of Memoirs of a Geisha to speak at UTC commencement

Arthur Golden will serve as the UTC spring commencement speaker on Sunday, May 2nd at 2 p.m. in McKenzie Arena. Approximately 725 students are expected to receive degrees from UTC at the event.

Golden grew up on Lookout Mountain, the fourth of four children of a newspaper family. His father, and later his mother, were publishers of The Chattanooga Times. Golden worked summers at The Chattanooga Times in a variety of jobs during high school.

After graduating from Baylor School in 1974, Golden attended Harvard, where he majored in art history and became interested in the subject of Japan. He went on to earn a master’s degree in Japanese history from Columbia University and then spent a year working in Tokyo at an English-language magazine. When he returned to the U.S. the following year, the economy was in the grip of a terrible recession, and no jobs were available. He decided to take the risk of writing a non-fiction book about Japan.

As it turned out, Golden said, no one wanted his book, and he began devoting himself to the study of fiction. For several years, he did his best to write a novel set in Japan, and finally in 1987 turned to the subject of geisha. He spent three years completing a novel, only to throw it out when he learned that his assumptions about the lives of geisha were wrong. His next draft took another three years. He threw this one out too when readers pronounced it dull.

In 1994, after six years of work, Golden began the manuscript that would eventually become his first published novel, Memoirs of a Geisha. After its release in 1997, it spent two years on The New York Times bestseller list. It has sold more than four million copies in English, and has been translated into 32 languages around the world. His second novel will be released in the fall of 2005.