Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is Susan Jane Gilman's second memoir that leads us into a crazy, yet extremely interesting time in her life. After her first memoir, Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, we learn Susan's background as a child growing up in New York City, which continues on into her life as an adult.
In this book however, we are introduced to the twenty-one year old Susan, and her friend Claire. After a late night at the IHop, and a menu of international pancakes, they were just two young women who wanted to take on the world and start in a city where not a lot of people had been to in the early 1980s.
Claire and Susan decide to take a trip and backpack across Europe, starting in the Communist country of China, which had just opened their doors for immigrants.
They had set rules of where they would stay and how they would travel. They would do everything rough. Instead of staying at the typical Holiday or Comfort Inn, they would stay in hostels and local hotels that they would find out about from citizens. We also get to witness the experience of a hospital in the middle of nowhere in China. These girls went through everything and anything.
We meet different characters who helped them travel. Their friend Jon, who is a citizen of China, helps the girls travel into a world where Americans weren't allowed, his home. He took them there to have a traditional Chinese meal with almost every person in his family. Susan also got to spend her birthday on the Great Wall of China, with tourists from all over singing "Happy Birthday".
This memoir really makes you experience China in the early 1980's and gives you the real detail of a city that you will never see again in the twenty-first century. This book will make you laugh, like all her other pieces, but also fill you with sadness and remorse. She has captured the city for its real side and as she went back many years later, the city that she saw, had changed greatly. It makes you appreciate the time you have and how much the world can change over a time of fifteen years.