Synopses & Reviews
They were young, brilliant, and ambitious. They set out to conquer the world. Instead, the world conquered them.
Bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman's riveting new memoir is a hilarious and haunting true adventure. It's filled with the memorable characters, psychological insights, and dazzling humor she's known for. Yet it also displays an accomplished literary eloquence and grandeur of scale that will entertain and enthrall old and new fans alike.
In 1986, fresh out of college, Susan Jane Gilman and her friend Chloe dreamed of hitting the road as modern-day female Kerouacs. Inspired by a placemat at the International House of Pancakes, they mapped out a trip circling the globe, then headed west--to China. At that point in time, the People's Republic had been open to backpackers for barely ten minutes. But Susan and Chloe relished the challenge. Having been told throughout their Ivy League schooling that they were the future leaders of America, they were eager to boldly take on the world. Unfortunately, the world had other ideas.
Armed only with the collected works of Nietzsche, an astrology book, and more chutzpah than sense, the two quickly found themselves on an epic misadventure. As they trekked off the map into the dusty, alien streets of Communist China, they were quickly stripped of everything familiar. At turns funny, erotic, and harrowing, their journey became a string of poignant encounters with Chinese and Westerners alike. But it soon grew sinister. The two young women found themselves trapped in their own peculiar Heart of Darkness in the middle of rural China, and what began as a giddy expedition became a real-life international thriller that transformedtheir lives for forever.
UNDRESS ME IN THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN is an astonishing, real-life story of hubris--and redemption--told with tremendous heart.
"Youthfully upbeat, Gilman (Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress) delivers an entertaining memoir of her ill-starred attempt to circumnavigate the globe after college graduation in 1986. Eager to embark on life but unsure exactly how to do it, the author, a New Yorker, and her fair-haired Connecticut trust-fund friend, Claire, both graduates from Brown, resolved to backpack around the world for a year and become heroines in their own epic stories. Starting in Hong Kong, the two nave 21-year-olds, armed with Linda Goodman's Love Signs, volumes of Nietzsche and a year's supply of tampons, ran into shoals fairly immediately, freaked out by fleabag hotels, vermin, importunate fellow travelers and the debilitating effects of illness, homesickness and the sole company of each other. As they roughed it through Communist China, Claire grew increasingly paranoid and delusional, eventually bolting on a bizarre bus trip that got her picked up by the police. Gilman's amusing journey focuses tightly on these first shaky seven weeks, offering the full wallop of disorienting, in-the-moment, transformative travel adventures." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
On UNDRESS ME IN THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN:
"[A] standout travel memoir...Gilman's descriptions of their trials and tribulations crackle with wit."--Booklist
"Youthfully upbeat, Gilman delivers an entertaining memoir...offering the full wallop of disorienting, in-the-moment, transformative travel adventures."--Publishers Weekly
"[An] ambitious and intimate coming-of-age memoir."--Kirkus
"With her trademark intelligent, irreverent voice Gilman takes us on a journey that feels terrifyingly real, immediate and life-threatening. The woman is no less than a godsend to a reading world that has become too used to lies, half-truth and spin."--Alexandra Fuller
They were young, brilliant, and ambitious--Gilman and her friend Chloe set out to conquer the world. Instead, the world conquered them. The bestselling author's riveting new memoir is an astonishing, real-life story of hubris--and redemption--told with tremendous heart.
They were young, brilliant, and bold. They set out to conquer the world. But the world had other plans for them.
Bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman's new memoir is a hilarious and harrowing journey, a modern heart of darkness filled with Communist operatives, backpackers, and pancakes.
In 1986, fresh out of college, Gilman and her friend Claire yearned to do something daring and original that did not involve getting a job. Inspired by a place mat at the International House of Pancakes, they decided to embark on an ambitious trip around the globe, starting in the People's Republic of China. At that point, China had been open to independent travelers for roughly ten minutes.
Armed only with the collected works of Nietzsche, an astrological love guide, and an arsenal of bravado, the two friends plunged into the dusty streets of Shanghai. Unsurprisingly, they quickly found themselves in over their heads. As they ventured off the map deep into Chinese territory, they were stripped of everything familiar and forced to confront their limitations amid culture shock and government surveillance. What began as a journey full of humor, eroticism, and enlightenment grew increasingly sinister-becoming a real-life international thriller that transformed them forever.
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is a flat-out page-turner, an astonishing true story of hubris and redemption told with Gilman's trademark compassion, lyricism, and wit.
"This is riveting stuff . . . unputdownable."
--O, The Oprah Magazine
In 1986, Susan Jane Gilman and a classmate embarked on a bold trek around the globe starting in the People's Republic of China. At that point, China had been open to independent backpackers for roughly ten minutes. Armed only with the collected works of Nietzsche and Linda Goodman's Love Signs, the two friends plunged into the dusty streets of Shanghai. Unsurprisingly, they quickly found themselves in over their heads--hungry, disoriented, stripped of everything familiar, and under constant government surveillance. Soon, they began to unravel--one physically, the other psychologically. As their journey became increasingly harrowing, they found themselves facing crises that Susan didn't think they'd survive. But by summoning strengths she never knew she had--and with help from unexpected friends--the two travelers found their way out of a Chinese heart of darkness.
UNDRESS ME IN THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN is a flat-out page-turner, an astonishing true story of naïveté, friendship, and redemption told with Susan's trademark compassion and humor.
About the Author
Susan Jane Gilman is the author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress and Kiss My Tiara. She has written commentary for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Ms. magazine, among others, and her fiction and essays have received several literary awards. Though she has lived most recently in Geneva, Switzerland, and Washington, D.C., she remains, eternally, a child of New York.