Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Monday, March 1, 2010

Memoir Monday... Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman, a Blog Tour & Review!

Travel to China with 2 Girls Who Have No Idea What They're In For...

UNDRESS ME in the TEMPLE of HEAVEN by Susan Jane Gilman... 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.

What an amazing story! A story of friendship and a daring trip to parts unknown... With such an enthusiastic zest for life and a need to discover themselves, these two naive women innocently embarked on a trip that turned out like nothing they expected. The story is a page turner, but its Susan Jane Gilman's writing that keeps your interest. She is a good writer! And she's got the experience to prove it! SUSAN JANE GILMAN has written commentary for the New York Times, Ms., US, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. She is also the winner of several literary awards for her fiction and essays. I enjoyed reading Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven! If you've ever toyed with the notion of hoping on a plane without a plan, you'll want to read this book to see what can happen. It was fun & terrifying, and Susan and her friend Claire are lucky to have survived! I want to thank Miriam of Hachette Book Group for sending me a copy to read as part of Jane's Blog Tour for Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven! You can learn all about the author at Susan Jane Gilman's website. And if you're in a reading group, there is plenty of story to discuss! Here is the Reading Guide from the author...

Reading Guide

1. Why do you think the book is titled Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven?

2. The author mentions several times in the book that she and Claire were Ivy Leaguers. Why do you think she does this?

3. To this end, she also mentions that she and her friend were groomed to be “the future leaders of America.” Why might she have gone out of her way to point this out? Does this detail have implications beyond the immediate story?

4. How do the people in this book transform over time? Are the changes predictable?

5. What role does China itself play in the narrative? Could this misadventure have just as easily taken place anywhere else?

6. Did you find the narrator herself sympathetic? Heroic? Does she seem to think that she was—or was not?

7. This adventure took place in 1986. Do you think it's still relevant today?

8. Did your own feelings for the people change over the course of the story? If so, how?

9. If you could ask the author any questions directly about Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, what would they be?

10. Gilman’s previous books have dealt with women’s empowerment. Do you feel that Undress Me continues this theme? Why or why not?

11. Has this book changed the way you view travel at all?

12. Are there lessons from this story that you can apply to your own life?

Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman was just released in paperback this past February! BTW, This Book is Kindle Ready!


Harvee said...

Sorry I didn't find the author sympathetic. Just incredibly naive!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Harvee!
Yes, I can understand what you mean. I guess my amazement at their being so naive and the situations they got themselves into propelled me on...

Susan Jane Gilman said...


Wow. Thank you so much for the terrific review. You've made my day. And yes, we certainly were naive. Our cluelessness amazes even me now!

I felt it was important to emphasize this truth, even if I do not come out looking terribly good. There are books out there right now about people who just take off to foreign lands to find themselves -- perhaps, say, by eating a lot of pasta or renovating a villa -- where they simply triumph! I wanted to tell another side of the story -- a sort of cautionary tale.

Anyway, since it is a true story, I'd be interested to hear from readers if they saw the ending come. Let me know! You can contact me through

Thanks so much for reading.

Natalie W said...

I really want this book! Sounds like a wonderful read. I already have it on my wish list.

Booksnyc said...

I really liked this one too! I have picked up her first two books because I enjoyed her writing - smart and snarky!

M. said...

I love unusual travel memoir and this certainly fits under that heading. 'Honeymoon in Purdah' was another one. Will look forward to this.

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