Arthur Golden was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was educated at Harvard College, where he received a degree in art history, specializing in Japanese art. In 1980 he earned an M.A. in Japanese history from Columbia University, where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. Following a summer in Beijing University, he worked in Tokyo, and, after returning to the United States, earned an M.A. in English from Boston University. He resides in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Arthur Golden most well-known novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, was written over a 6-year period. The novel was re-written in its entirety three times during its development. Golden changed the point of view with each re-write, eventually settling on Sayuri’s perspective.
During research for the novel, Golden conducted interviews with a number of geisha, including famous ex-geisha Mineko Iwasaki. After the Japanese edition of the novel was published, Golden was sued by Iwasaki for breach of contract and defamation of character, with Iwasaki alleging that Golden had agreed to protect her anonymity if she was interviewed about her life as a geisha, due to the traditional code of silence held between geisha in regards to their clients.