The Geisha’s Granddaughter

Written by Chayyam Zeldis
Review by Mary K. Bird-Guillams

The title forecasts the influence of the past over the present. The period of time spanned in this novel begins in early 20th century Japan, moving to California, and extends perhaps into the 70s, post-Vietnam anyway. None of those social shockwaves are evident in the story development, only the ones from World War II. The shameful treatment of Japanese Americans and the experience of Japanese American GIs in liberating the camps of the Holocaust contribute heavily to the plot. I liked the beginning of the book best, describing the emigration of a “black sheep” Japanese brother, his taking in the cast- off son of a geisha, their common feel for the land, and the young immigrant finding his wife from a nearby family. The brutal confiscation of his property with the incarceration of Japanese Americans in 1941 is shocking and is meant to be. Their long awaited child is finally conceived in the camp and Akira enlists in the Army to prove his loyalty to the United States. As the story becomes the daughter’s, her life is shaped by the reduced family circumstances, a permanently traumatized ex-soldier buddy of Akira’s and her love for the son of the military man who is both the family’s landlord/employer and the actual bearer of the eviction notice during the war. It was difficult for me to see much of the geisha in this granddaughter. The book had some interesting points, but I found it rather stiff.