- CRRL Staff
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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The "memoirs" of one of Japan's most celebrated geishas describes how, as a little girl in 1929, she is sold into slavery; her efforts to learn the arts of the geisha; the impact of World War II; and her struggle to reinvent herself to win the man she loves.
Memoirs of a Geisha is a 2005 American epic drama film based on the novel Memoirs of a Geisha. Directed by Rob Marshall, the film was released in the United States on December 9, 2005. It stars Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Youki Kudoh, Suzuka Ohgo, and Samantha Futerman. The film was released to mixed reviews from western critics, but was a box office hit and was nominated for and won numerous awards, including nominations for six Academy Awards, and eventually won three: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. The acting, visuals, sets, costumes, and John Williams' musical score were praised, but the film was criticized for casting Chinese actresses as Japanese women and for its style over substance approach. The Japanese release of the film was titled Sayuri, the titular character's geisha name.
Above the East China Sea by Sarah Bird
Luz, a contemporary U.S. Air Force brat, lives with her no-nonsense sergeant mother at Kadena Air Base. Luz's older sister, her best friend, and emotional center has died in the Afghan war. Unmoored by her death, unable to lean on her mother, Luz contemplates taking her own life. In 1945, Tamiko has lost everyone—the older sister she idolized and her entire family—and finds herself trapped between the occupying Japanese and the invading Americans whom she has been taught are demons that live to rape. On an island where the spirits of the dead are part of life and the afterworld reunites you with your family, suicide offers Tamiko the promise of peace. As Luz tracks down the story of her own Okinawan grandmother, she discovers that the ancestral spirits work as readily to save her as they do to help Tamiko find a resting place. And as these two stories unfold and intertwine, we see how war and American occupation have shaped and reshaped the lives of Okinawans.
The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
It is 1959 when Haruko, a young woman of good family, marries the Crown Prince of Japan, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. She is the first non-aristocratic woman to enter the longest-running, almost hermetically sealed, and mysterious monarchy in the world. Met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress and her minions, Haruko is controlled at every turn. The only interest the court has in her is her ability to produce an heir. After finally giving birth to a son, Haruko suffers a nervous breakdown and loses her voice. However, determined not to be crushed by the imperial bureaucrats, she perseveres. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman—a rising star in the foreign ministry--to accept the marriage proposal of her son, the Crown Prince. The consequences are tragic and dramatic.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
In early 1900s Korea, Sunja is the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family. Her unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. Caught in the indifferent arc of history, through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, Sunja's family members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.
A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
Here is the story of Etsuko, a Japanese woman now living alone in England, dwelling on the recent suicide of her daughter. In a novel where past and present confuse, she relives scenes of Japan's devastation in the wake of World War II.
Peony in Love by Lisa See
For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own. Peony's mother is against her daughter's attending the production: "Unmarried girls should not be seen in public." But Peony's father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave and is immediately overcome with emotion. So begins Peony's unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow-as Lisa See's haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.
When the Future Comes Too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke
Following the death of their matriarch, the lives of Chye Hoon’s family are turned upside down. Now that the British have fled and the Japanese have conquered, their once-benign world changes overnight. Amid the turmoil, Chye Hoon’s daughter-in-law, Mei Foong, must fend for her family as her husband, Weng Yu, becomes increasingly embittered. Challenged in ways she could never have imagined and forced into hiding, Mei Foong finds a deep reservoir of resilience she did not know she had and soon draws the attention of another man. Is Mei Foong’s resolve enough to save herself, her marriage, and her family? Only when peace returns to Malaya will she learn the full price she must pay for survival.
White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht
In 1943 Korea, 16-year-old Hana is a haenyeo, a female diver who helps support her family with the catches she finds in the sea. But her life is forever altered when, in an attempt to hide her little sister, Emi, from a Japanese soldier, she is captured and forced to work at a brothel as a prostitute for Japanese soldiers in Manchuria. The story jumps forward to 2011 when Emi is in Seoul to visit her daughter, to find her sister, and to participate in the weekly Wednesday demonstrations that are held in front of the Japanese embassy to demand justice for the "comfort women" who were forced to become prostitutes during World War II. Emi has carried her guilt about Hana's abduction for decades, but now believes she may finally have a chance to find out what happened to her sister.
The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall
Malaya, 1941. Connie Thornton plays her role as a dutiful wife and mother without complaint. She is among the fortunate after all-the British rubber plantation owners reaping the benefits of the colonial life. But Connie feels as though she is oppressed, crippled by boredom, sweltering heat, a loveless marriage. . . Then, in December, the Japanese invade. Connie and her family flee, sailing south on their yacht toward Singapore, where the British are certain to stand firm against the Japanese. En route, in the company of friends, they learn that Singapore is already under siege. Tensions mount, tempers flare, and the yacht's inhabitants are driven by fear.