Book club discussion: Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Join us for the second book club discussion in the “Around the World” Travel Reads series!

We will meet on Sunday, Nov. 20 from 4-5 PM in Carlsson Evald’s Great Hall to discuss Susan Jane Gilman’s memoir Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven.

For a taste of this provocative read, check out these excerpts:

“Being a tourist, I was beginning to see, meant being infantilized much of the time . . . Drop any of us, anywhere, in an alien environment, and you’ll see our IQ plummet . . . This is why, I suspect, so many otherwise decent people back home behave like assholes abroad: There’s nothing quite like feeling helpless to turn you into a world-class control freak, to make you forget your manners and throw and tantrum if your room isn’t ready and there’s no ice in your drink. In a strange environment you feel like a baby, and you’re often treated like a baby, and so you act like one” (59-60).
“I realized that everything I’d known up to that point about China was basically a gross cultural stereotype . . . Confucius, gunpowder, printing press, noodles, dynasties, concubines, food-binding, opium, Communists, tai chi, acupuncture, and pandas” (109).
“It never seemed to occur to us that only privileged Westerners travel to developing countries in the first place, then use them as playgrounds and laboratories for our own enrichment. Only privileged Westerners consider it a badge of honor to forsake modern amenities for a two-dollar-a-night roach-infested guesthouse. Only privileged Westerners sit around drinking beers at prices the natives can’t afford while sentimentalizing the nation’s lower standard of living and adopting it as a lifestyle” (148).
I hope to see you there!
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