I absolutely love memoirs, especially ones that do not seem like memoirs as you are reading them. I like my personal accounts to have a fictional feel, but at the same time they must have a degree of reality in them. It’s a fine line that the author has to walk, and Susan Jane Gilman triumphs like a tightrope champion in Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven. I took this book recommendation from Jen Lancaster’s blog, not knowing much about the storyline. That being said, I believe it’s best to not give too many plot details because knowing very little aided me in my adventurous read. I was overjoyed to find out that again, I simply could not put this harrowing account of a journey in the People’s Republic of China down.
The year is 1986. Brown University grads Susan and her friend Claire decide to backpack all over world for one year, starting by flying to Hong Kong and making their way into The People’s Republic of China. At the time, this country has been open to American travel for only a short span of time. It is virtually unheard of for an American to travel there. It takes about 5 minutes before the girls realize how out of their league they truly are. What unfolds is a story so crazy, riveting, and ultimately shocking, that the reader is left speechless by the end of the book.
Susan Jane Gilman writes with such detail after twenty years that you feel grateful for her journal and for the friends who gave their perspectives and help in writing this memoir. At the end of the book I felt an overwhelming need to contact her, but settled for reading some interviews she has given online. Awesome memoir, awesome author.