Read Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me by Alice Pung Online


After Alice Pung’s family fled to Australia from the killing fields of Cambodia, her father chose Alice as her name because he thought their new country was a Wonderland. In this lyrical, bittersweet debut memoir—already an award-winning bestseller when it was published in Australia—Alice grows up straddling two worlds, East and West, her insular family and the Australia oAfter Alice Pung’s family fled to Australia from the killing fields of Cambodia, her father chose Alice as her name because he thought their new country was a Wonderland. In this lyrical, bittersweet debut memoir—already an award-winning bestseller when it was published in Australia—Alice grows up straddling two worlds, East and West, her insular family and the Australia outside. With wisdom beyond her years and a keen eye for comedy in everyday life, she writes of the trials of assimilation and cultural misunderstanding, and of the tender but fraught relationships between three generations of women trying to live the Australian dream without losing themselves. Unpolished Gem is a moving, vivid journey about identity and the ultimate search for acceptance and healing, delivered by a writer possessed of rare empathy, penetrating insight, and undeniable narrative gifts.Download a revised version of the Pung and Chia family trees that appear in Unpolished Gem....

Title : Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780452290006
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 282 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me Reviews

  • Trevor
    2019-03-13 08:23

    I had meant to read this years ago, when it first came out. Then I read a review by Choupette and meant to read it after that too. But never did. Then I was at the local library last week and saw the audio book. I read the back of the box and was told that this is not your normal ‘South East Asian comes to Australia’ story – no boats here, just lots of laughs and fun times.There is only one possible explanation – the person who wrote the blurb to this audio book never read it. This is anything but a laugh a minute novel. There were times when it was so painful that I almost stopped altogether. The parts at the beginning where her mother and grandmother use her as an instrument to cause pain to each other (and damn the feelings of the child) are just awful. The scene where the all-too-young Alice is left to look after her sister for hours and who then falls out of bed and then her mother blames Alice for any potential brain damage – well, that was the part where I nearly turned the tape off. I would have been much more resilient if not for the person who wrote the blurb, who really does need to go back to Blurb School. Rule number one – there is no such thing as a laugh a minute book with the long shadow of the killing fields stretching across it. Like Auschwitz, some topics were simply never made for sketch comedy. This book definitely does not present itself as such.Rule number two – if the main character ends up on anti-depressants at 17 perhaps this is a sign of something deeper going on than a cute coming of age story for a girl that just happens to be Asian Australian. This is a fascinating story of what it means to be an Asian girl growing up in pretty well contemporary Australia. If you need some fire reignited in your feminist belly, this is as good a book to read as any other.There were a few things I didn’t like about the book – just about every time she had internal arguments with herself about her boy friend was overwritten and could so easily have been handled better. All the same, the best of this book is that mostly it is written in good, clean and clear sentences. That is, there is very little crap. Which is always a good sign.I feel sure that parts of this book will stay with me for quite some time. I also went to one of the primary schools she went to, one of the long string of schools I went to in my own childhood journey across Melbourne. It is nice reading books set in Melbourne that mention places I’ve known all my life, getting to see them through another set of eyes. I am glad I didn’t stop listening to this – but it is definitely not a light book, not by any stretch of the imagination.My favourite bit is this – oh, some background if you are not Australian. Greek and Italian Australians once were called Wogs as an insult – now this is a word you mostly only hear used by Greeks and Italians to describe themselves. They call Anglo-Australias, ‘Skips’ – after Skippy, the bush kangaroo. This was the funniest part of the book:“My cousin Melanie had recently married her skip boyfriend, although I don't know why he called himself that. "Hey I'm just a skip!" he kept insisting, "I won't be offended if you all call me that, ha ha!" He grinned like a goof at his own generosity, not realising that all of my other relatives had already determined from day one that they would refer to him as the Round Red-haired Demon, even in Melanie's presence."

  • Lee Kofman
    2019-03-21 14:40

    Alice Pung is just a terrific writer! One of the rare truly talented ones. Her mind is a little mad in a poetic way. This memoir documents not just events from her life, but also artfully recreates family events she could never witness and, even more interestingly artistically, the hilarious alternative reality of her mind. The ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. Everyone praises the humour of this book and I wholeheartedly agree, but the real story here is Alice is a poet. I’d call this poetry-memoir. I was deeply moved not just by the story, but by how freshly and with what gusto it was told.

  • C.
    2019-03-14 12:21

    Given that I'm not strictly speaking Asian, it's possibly not at all pc of me to say this in this context, but thank FUCKING GOD for an Asian-Australian writer. There needs to be more of them (and more Lebanese-Australian writers, Mauritian-Australian writers and Sudanese-Australian writers, but they don't touch my life so closely, so I don't care as much). I think it's already been established that I'm not exactly in touch with the greater contemporary Australian literary scene, but the only other Asian-Australian writer I can think of is Shaun Tan.Hurry up and grow up, my generation! I want to read your books!This book was annoyingly written. Apparently, it is what is known as autofiction, a genre in which the author fictionalises their own life. Or something. So we hear about Alice's parents and grandmother coming to Australia from a life of poverty in Cambodia/China, their difficulties adjusting to Australian life, Alice's attempts to reconcile her Asian-ness with her Australian-ness, and so on. For much of the book, she had this irritating "I'm-an-omniscient-narrator" thing going on, even though it was also written in first person. There's a reason this sounds like a contradiction in terms! It was bad. And then there was all this perfectly ordinary, decent prose, only to be spoiled by these completely out-of-place metaphors, spikes of over-the-top alliteration, and completely pretentious pretentions of being able to write well! "Spreading stories like the Vegemite on my toast." "Boxed into my blue blazer." "The wah-sers." Alice Pung, you are clearly not a good enough, or experienced enough, writer to make such phrases fit into your prose without sounding like a complete twat! So don't do it!But all this could be forgiven because Alice Pung is not only Asian-Australian, but Melburnian-Australian, and this book was like my own life re-told from a slightly different perspective. But for a quirk of fate, Alice's life could have been mine. Migrant parent(s). Suburban Melbourne (western instead of eastern suburbs, but same diff). Odd one out at private school. University. College. Boyfriends. Family. Existential Angst. But man, oh man, how comforting it is to read about things I know! How much I remember how confused I was the first time I went to my friend Jean's house and being handed a pair of slippers at the door! I didn't know whether I was supposed to keep them afterwards or not, because who would want to wear again the slippers that had been on my big, smelly, non-Asian feet? I left them, in the end, under Jean's bed. I wasn't used to wearing slippers around the house instead of shoes. And the incidental, institutionalised, casual-and-unconcerned racism. And the Asian lady sitting in the wheelchair outside the house on Canterbury Road, near the intersection with Station Street. Day after day, rain or shine, sitting there, staring at the cars.

  • Nina {ᴡᴏʀᴅs ᴀɴᴅ ᴡᴀᴛᴇʀ}
    2019-03-06 09:37

    I find this memoir more interesting than her other one (Her Father's Daughter), and I also find it better written (If that's even possible). This memoir chronicles Alice's life from before she was born, to when she is nineteen. It's a culturally heavy book for people like myself who are born asian in a Australia. But it's nice to think that she had a lot of family around her to give her the flavour in her life that I never really experienced. Yet strangely, even though my family was not as colourful nor as full and complete, I still could emphatically relate to many of Alice's experiences. From her interactions with her grandmas, to school, to going silent, to experiencing first love. And while there are so many places in which I would look at my own history and think--ah, my life wasn't like that, not really, yet at the same, yeah, it was only...I never really thought about it that way. I think we need more Australian works like this. Not more stories about the lives of refugees--although those are just as important as stories like Alice's--and immigrants migrating from their native lands to a new one. What we need are more 'young' stories, of young Asian-Australians, not just in creative non-fiction, but in fiction, in particular, young adult fiction, that other young adults can relate to. We don't live in worlds of monotony anymore. Our world is coloured by multiculturalism, of people who are born and raised in a land, which should not be foreign to them, yet as Alice Pung's memoir depicts, this land we call our own, doesn't always feel like our own because we aren't necessarily able to follow the same values as those who consider themselves 'Australian' in the sense of Anglo-Saxon. Culturally diverse, second gen migrants/first gen Australian borns, are trapped between two worlds, and also, trapped within both/or more worlds. They are inside each world, experiencing the realities of both, yet at the same time, are stuck watching the others within these worlds. They are Inside Watchers. From this memoir, I see a lot of where Pung drew her inspiration for Laurinda which is great, but it also confirms my feelings when I did read Laurinda--Laurinda had too much of that 'memoir-like' feeling which for me was pleasantly unpleasant. Still, this was an interesting read. A very well crafted chronicle of important and insightful memories. I would definitely suggest this book to anyone who ever wants to know (kind of anyway because everyone is unique little butterflies after all, just as experiences are too) what it's like to be inside the head of an Australian-Asian (Asian-Australian), and to experience what it's like growing up as one, then, this book is a great one. Definitely a very interesting memoir, and one of few I would ever give a chance to reading (for I really don't like memoirs normally!)

  • Sulis Peri Hutan
    2019-03-01 09:27

    Ceritanya tentang perbedaan budaya, kisah pribadi penulisnya waktu baru pindah dari Kamboja ke Australia, dari kecil hingga dia kuliah. Lucu sih, gampangannya orang udik dari desa yang pindah ke kota besar, banyak tingkah konyol. Contohnya waktu naik eskalator, mereka naik turun di eskalator pusat perbelanjaan Hightpoint, pria berusia 32 tahun, istrinya yang hamil delapan bulan, adik perempuannya yang berumur 27 tahun, dan nenek-nenek Asia yang mengenakan piama wol berwarna ungu. Waktu membeli makanan kaleng, yang ternyata murah-murah, setelah memasaknya dan tanpa sengaja melihat iklan di televisi, ternyata makanan yang mereka beli adalah makanan anjing! di hal. 13 ibu Alice berkata, " Wah, siapa yang percaya daging seenak ini untuk makanan anjing? betepa beruntungnya menjadi anjing di negara ini." HUEKS. Pengalaman lainnya adalah ketika teman bibinya mau berkunjung, dia salah flat, malah dikira seorang wanita panggilan. Nenek dan Ibunya yang tidak akur dimana ini membuat Alice menjadi seorang pembohong, bagaimana tidak? ketika bersama neneknya, dia selalu bertanya," Agheare, ibumu bicara apa tentang diriku kalau aku sedang tak ada?" lalu ketika bersama ibunya, " Agheare, apa kata nenekmu tentang diriku?" bagaimana tidak stress???? Cerita konyol lainnya kebiasaan Alice yang suka ngompol dan tidak berani bilang ke gurunya waktu kelas dua, ada juga cerita sedih waktu Alice dan Alexander adiknya pergi kerumah temannya Joanne, tapi sampe disana mereka tidak disambut dengan baik, mereka dilarang menyenderkan kepala ke sofa karena rambut mereka kutuan. Hubungan Alice dengan neneknya sangat dekat, waktu neneknya meninggal, Alice tetap menyimpan kasur yang sering mereka gunakan untuk tidur bersama sampai besar. Nenek Alice salah satu orang yang mempunyai banyak kepercayaan, memuja banyak dewa. Buddha, Dewi Welas Asih, Dewa Bisnis, dia sangat cerewet sekali tidak kalah dengan ibunya Alice. Dan bagian yang paling aku suka adalah kisah cinta Alice :) ketika Alice mulai masuk universitas ada seorang pemuda, Michael, dia jatuh cinta pada Alice dan waktu menembaknya Alice berperang dengan pikirannya, antara mau menerima atau menolak, yang akhirnya ditolak tapi tidak lama kemudian setelah sering bersama toh dia menerima juga. Yang lucu itu adalah waktu mereka pacaran mendapat pengawasan ketat dari ibunya, ada jam malam, gerak gerik mereka tidak bebas, kadang mencuri-curi untuk ciuman. Untung menegtahui akhirnya, sebaiknya kita tanya langsung ke penulisnya, apakah akhirnya dia menikah dengan Michael? ;pAda kalimat favoritku, hal. 102 waktu ayah Alice berkata, "Keluarga itu seperti seekor ular, kalau kepala ular lurus, maka seluruh tubuhnya akan ikut lurus. Tetapi, kalau kepalanya bengkok, maka tubuhnya akan bengkok-bengkok seperti gingseng dan celakalah dia."Ceritanya lumayan, agak bosen juga sih diawal, hanya kejadian membeli makanan kaleng dan waktu tidak diterima di rumah temannya karena Alice punya kutu di rambutnya yang membuat saya tertarik, setelah itu flat. Mandeg ditengah, saya ganti bacaan lain, sampai Alice dewasa dan bertemu dengan Michael, membuat saya senyam senyum sendiri dan bersemangat untuk menyelesaikannya. Covernya cantik, ada typo beberapa, dan yang membuat saya binggung disini tidak memakai nama Alice tapi Angheare, hanya beberapa kali nama Alice digunakan (?)Berbicara sedikit tentang pengarangnya, Alice Pung seorang penulis dan pengacara (sesuai yang dia ceritakan di buku, waktu kuliah dia mengambil jurusan hukum), karyanya dimuat di Meanjin, Good Wekend, dan The Monthly. Dunia Alice atau judul aslinya Unpolished Gem, buku pertamanya ini pada tahun 2007 mendapatkan penghargaan Newcomer of the year Award dari industri buku di Australia dan lolos seleksi NSW Premier Literaty Award dan Booksellers' Choice Award.3 sayap untuk Alice dan keluarganya yang udik :)Note: Buku ini saya dapatkan dari menang kuis di twitter, waktu itu pertanyaanya adalah, "apa pengalamanmu yang paling berkesan waktu kecil?" :))

  • Emily
    2019-03-12 10:35

    Unpolished Gem is the second memoir that I have read, the first one being the Diary of Anne Frank. This book is actually part of my English assignment and I am supposed to do an expository essay out of this. Being an Asian Memoir, this genre is fairly new to me but it is a very great book. Funny, lighthearted and a great reading experience in a whole.I can safely say that this book opens up a window to the life of an Asian girl having to battle through the culture that she grew up into, which is the Australian culture, while having to preserve her own Asian heritage, with the constant companion of extremely traditional grandmother and parents. The book itself is rich with Asian culture, traditions, typical Asian people and customs. And at the same time pointed out how all these Asian quirkiness fit into the uncharted territory of the Whites and their totally opposite cultures.The thing I like about the book is that there are so many things that I can relate to. I have just moved to Australia recently, and while I do not have to struggle with the cultures - because by now I perfectly know what the norms are and I'm very much the stereotypical Asian - making adjustment isn't so simple either. This book made me go 'Oh, I have totally experienced that before!' Which tells me that I am, after all, not the only one having to experience such things and it's nice to know that you are not alone. At some part of the books, the feelings that Alice had mirrored mine perfectly, and for that alone the book holds a special place within my heart, so close, so relatable, so poignant. I have to thank whatever fate that caused my teacher to make this an option for the assignment, that caused me to choose this book despite the very tempting alternative. I see this book as something more than just an assignment, but a book that helped me through this transition period, which is also possibly one of the toughest times in my life.

  • Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)
    2019-03-11 09:29

    This book started with a bang, but lost impetus somewhere along the line. I loved her descriptions of Chinese immigrant family life. Her grandmother praising Father Government for the benefit she receives each fortnight. The excess of Australian society even in the late 70s when the authors early childhood occurs when seen by people who have endured war and hardship.The little Green Man was an eternal symbol of government existing to serve and protect. And any country that could have a little green flashing man was benign and wealthy beyond imagining.Interesting to learn some cultural differences. That careful translated literally in Chinese means to have a small heart. Young Alice doesn't want to have a small heart. That lady was the most abhorred thing you could become because ladies were lazy bums who sat around wasting their husband's money and walked down the street with perfectly made-up mien visiting the jewellery stores to which my mother delivered her wares. She really describing wealthy idleness which has become the dream of white society, and possibly society more generally.The book becomes less interesting in the latter stages when teenage Alice has her first boyfriend, and we get more of an internal dialogue. Still enjoyable on the whole, and I'm glad to have read it.

  • Nor Azzah
    2019-03-25 11:44

    Saya sukakan buku ini. Mungkin kerana saat ia diperkenalkan, saya memang mencari-cari bahan bacaan santai untuk dibaca kerana hanya membawa buku-buku ilmiah untuk rujukan kerja.Tambahan pula setelah mula dibaca, ianya sangat relevan dengan persekitaran di mana saya berada ketika itu yang turut melatari kisah yang ditulis. Sekurang-kurangnya kerana ianya dalam daerah yang sama, di Melbourne. Jadi, ada nama-nama tempat yang saya maklumi, nama pasaraya yang turut saya kunjungi cawangannya.Kisah tentang kehidupan imigran ke Australia bagi meneruskan kelangsungan hidup yang diharapkan lebih cerah peluangnya berbanding di tanah tumpah darah sendiri. Justeru nama penulis sendiri iaitu Alice, diberikan oleh ayahnya kerana beliau dilahirkan di Australia yang dianggap sebagai 'wonderland' kepada mereka sekeluarga. Cerita dalam buku ini juga sedikit membantu saya memahami latar budaya dan sejarah kehidupan masyarakat di Australia, kerana di pejabat tempat saya bertugas sementara juga terdapat mereka yang ibu bapanya berasal daripada negara lain.Gaya penceritaan Alice sangat menarik dan santai dan saya amat suka bila beliau bercerita tentang neneknya yang ternyata sangat berpengaruh dalam kehidupan beliau kemudiannya.Sedikit terkilan kerana kisah Alice dan Michael tidak jelas kesudahannya dalam buku ini. Mungkin itu daya penarik untuk kita membaca pula buku beliau berikutnya.

  • Ari
    2019-02-24 10:37

    Honestly, I was bored at times. The ending was jarring too, because it was so random and sudden. I could sort-of understand why Alice did what she did and I'm glad that she was able to honestly evaluate her relationships, but I think the story should have continued a little after that (the scene should not be cut out because it's a very key scene, but it needed a follow-up).You may think I despised this book but I didn't. The author has a great sense of humor and she's able to poke fun at the strictness of her parents while still remaining the ideal obedient daughter. Although I am confused by her family's background. Alice's father's mother was definitely Chinese, she immigrated to Cambodia because she was a revolutionary and the government was after her. There she met Alice's father's father and I'm not sure if he's Cambodian or Chinese. She met him at a Chinese school, so I do think he's Chinese but he was way older and a teacher so maybe he was Cambodian and just taught at a Chinese school. I'm pretty sure Alice's mother is Cambodian though, Alice doesn't reveal much about the beginning of her life, her story starts when her mom is thirteen. Nevertheless, I loved reading about the Chinese-Cambodian culture and Alice's interesting family. There are two things that really stuck me in reading this novel, how Alice and her family call white people "ghosts". I found this quite amusing and smiled to myself every time I read it. I also thought that their definition of gossip/insults was brilliant, "Words with bones in them, my grandmother calls them. Words to make the other person fall flat on their back and die a curly death, my mother says. The sharp ones, the ones you can use if ever you need a weapon to protect yourself." (pg. 36). I also loved the glimpse into Australian culture in general, mainly though vocabulary. For example, an ocker (see summary of the book above) is someone with an Australian accent who speaks and acts in an "uncultured manner" (thanks Wikipedia!). I had no clue what an ocker was but I had fun reading the bits of slang (bugger!) scattered throughout the novel and I was pleased that there was no translation (I'm not even sure if this book was published in the U.S., I don't think it was) you had to use context clues or just go look it up. Alice and her grandmother have a special relationship that was really heart-warming to read abouUnpolished Gem was a humorous look into the life of an average middle class Chinese-Cambodian family living in Australia. I learned a lot about Chinese-Cambodian and Australian culture. The strong characters, rich history and culture are never sugar-coated which keeps the book interesting and original. I do think the ending could have been way better and the story becomes tedious at times, but the author's light hearted look at things and her way with words, helped me finish the book. I cheered when she said "I wanted to know whether it was only because I was 'exotic' and if so, what that word meant to him. If he told me he liked my almond eyes and caramel skin, I would tell him to buy a bag of confectionery instead, because i was sick of it all-how we always had to have hair like a black waterfall, alabaster or porcelain skin, and some body part or other resembling a peach." (pg. 230)I LOVE this line! I have mixed feelings on this memoir, but I would say if you want to learn about being Asian in Australia then this book is a must-read for you.

  • Penni Russon
    2019-03-23 08:37

    An incredible project, I am so admiring of this sort of memory work, where Pung makes sense of her childhood and family history with such deft and sensitively rendered narrative tension. The environments and experiences were so vivid I forgot I am not really a Chinese migrant.I can't believe Pung hasn't been more widely accoladed for her work, hers is a stunning talent.

  • Jo
    2019-03-07 09:51

    First, a bit of background to my reading of this book. I grew up in a part of Sydney where there were many people of Asian descent. Those who were my age had often either been born in Australia to parents who were recent immigrants, or had come to Australia as children. Many of my friends were of Asian descent, from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. I tended to see the similarities between my friends and me - they were, after all, my friends - and I often did not understand why they reacted to certain things so differently, especially in relation to their interactions and relationships with their families.In the years since high school, I have grown to understand much more. Unpolished Gem allowed me to take another leap in my understanding of some of my friends. At the very least, this means that if Ms Pung is writing for the wider Australian audience, to give them an insight into the life of a certain section of the Australian community, she has nailed it. (I am quite curious to know if she has nailed the audience within the section of the Australian community she is writing about.)Ms Pung's writing is impeccable. By this I mean not that her sentences and paragraphs are well-structured and grammatically correct, although they are that, too, but that Ms Pung's narrative allows the reader to step inside the book and, to a significant extent, empathise with her. The reader is, accordingly, able to understand Ms Pung's emotional reactions to the situations she describes. It was this which allowed me to come to a much better understanding about my friends than I had before. It is not that I think all - or, even, any - of my friends had precisely the same experiences as Ms Pung, but that, by understanding the background in Ms Pung's story, I was able to better imagine what might have been happening for my friends in similar situations.Such an understanding is important to me personally, and may be important personally to many others. It is also important socially. Ms Pung's family has much in common, in terms of experiences and background, with many other Australians and their families - not only those who came to Australia at around the same time as, and in similar circumstances to, Ms Pung's family, but those who are coming to Australia now. In order to ensure that we can be an Australian community, as many of us as possible from as many parts of Australian society need to have some insight into other parts of our society. Unpolished Gem will help to increase the level of insight between communities.Finally, this book is also an excellent story, rather than merely a piece of writing about what happened. As a result, this book is likely to be quite an enjoyable read for those who, like me, do not normally enjoy non-fiction and memoir writing as much as fiction.

  • MaggyGray
    2019-03-21 11:25

    Was für ein Juwel!Ich hätte nicht gedacht, dass mich dieses Buch so fesseln könnte, denn ich hatte zuvor ein ähnliches Buch (Auswandern nach Australien und dort als "ewiger Ausländer" aufwachsen und leben) gelesen, und das war ein bisschen trübsinnig (wenn auch gut!!). Aber in "Ungeschliffener Diamant" schafft es die Autorin (oder vielleicht auch die Übersetzerin), eine in ihren Grundstrukturen eigentlich oft traurige Geschichte in Wörter und Sätze zu verpacken, die einen ans Buch fesseln und nicht mehr loslassen. Die Eltern von Alice wandern nach Australien aus, um der Schreckensherrschaft in Kambodscha zu entgehen. Auf dem Kontinent angekommen, bringt die Mutter Alice zur Welt und wohnt mit ihr, ihrem Mann und seiner Mutter in einer Aussiedler Wohnung, die die erste Station in ihrem Leben darstellt. Die Eltern und vor allem die Großmutter können gar nicht glauben, in welchem Reichtum sie nun leben, wo sie sich alles kaufen können, wo sie in Frieden leben können, wo sie satt werden. Vor allem der Vater ist sehr bemüht, sich und seine Familie zu integrieren, er eröffnet ein Geschäft, um seinen Lebensunterhalt selbst zu verdienen und ist damit auch recht erfolgreich. Gleichzeitig bleiben die Eltern, die Groß- bzw. Schwiegermutter, und später auch nachkommende Tanten und Onkel fest in ihrer Kultur und Tradition haften, sehen die "richtigen" Australier als "weiße Gespenster" und sind sehr darauf bedacht, ihre Kinder nur mit ihresgleichen verabreden und ausgehen zu lassen. Vor allem die Rollenverteilung von Mann und Frau ist noch sehr steinzeitlich, obwohl die Eltern wie selbstverständlich davon ausgehen, dass die Töchter eine so gute Schulausbildung wie möglich bekommt. Doch letztendlich läuft alles auf eine Heirat hinaus, bei der die Frau "neu und unberührt" sein muss. Sonst wird sie "zurückgeschickt, wie eine zerbeulte Waschmaschine, mit dem Vermerk: Zurück. Gebrauchsspuren". Die Ich-Erzählerin ist eigentlich zu Bemitleiden, denn ihre Mutter und Großmutter pressen sie - bei aller Liebe - in ein Korsett aus Vorschriften, Regeln, Verboten und Erwartungen, die ihr letztendlich auch eine schlimme Depression bescheren. Doch auch jetzt bekommt sie kaum Unterstützung und kämpft sich selbst wieder zurück ins Leben. Sie ist gut in der Schule, bekommt ein Stipendium und besucht eine renommierte Uni, auf der sie Jura studiert. Sie verliebt sich, doch ihre Erziehung und das lebenslange Formen durch ihre Familie lässt diese Liebe letztendlich scheitern. Die Sprache! Ich bin immer noch ganz begeistert von der Ausdruckskraft dieser Geschichte. Manche Sätze musste ich immer wieder lesen, weil sie mir so gefallen haben, ich hätte mir den einen oder anderen in mein Wörter&SätzeBuch schreiben sollen, aber ich konnte nicht aufhören zu lesen. Absolut empfehlenswert!

  • Lien Vong
    2019-03-22 09:37

    When I first started reading this book, I thought that there was so much I could relate with growing up Asian and living in Australia. But then I found Alice really quite annoying towards the end of this book when she talks about her relationship with the Anglo Aussie guy she starts dating. I just want to tell her to get over it, being Asian doesn't mean that it needs to get in the way of living your life. It obviously wasn't an issue with that guy and he went out of his way to adjust to the "Asian-ness" of her family and he still liked her. There were a lot of stereotyping in this book which started to bore me. For example the old Asian woman at the markets bargaining down to the last penny (we all know that Asian women do this so nothing new there) and the fact that she ends up being a lawyer. Okay, so she probably chose to be a lawyer (and this is an autobiography) but it just adds to that whole stereotyping of Asians only being interested in pursuing careers in law, medicine and accounting.There were some highlights. For example, when she describes how the way her grandmother and mother talk to each other. How every comment contains "bones". That is a very Chinese saying (and a very bitchy Chinese way to be). Basically, it means that there are underlying messages in what is actually said (never good). Her mother and grandmother's relationship sounds like my mother's and my late-grandmother's.

  • Tadashi Hamada
    2019-03-07 07:23

    4.5 stars rounded up to 5.Reading this book made me feel some sort of connection between me and Alice Pung. After all, she has sent me a message before, 4 months ago:You thought I was joking.So yes, I have talked to her. But even more than that, she lived in the same area as me (she lived in Footscray while I live in Sunshine North, which are both of Melbourne's western suburbs and about a 20-minute drive away from each other), and in FACT, she went to the same school as me! (Well, actually, I'm not even sure if her campus was part of my school back then--there were two schools near each other and they thought it would be a good idea if they just merged into ONE school with two separate campuses, and the smaller campus would only have Year 7 to Year 9 girls, but I'm not sure if they merged before or after she went there... oh well, she still went to the same campus as me!) This just made me feel a stronger connection to her as I read this book, knowing she has seen the same places and encountered the same types of people as me.This book was funny, down-to-earth, and intelligently written. Alice Pung is such a magnificent writer and I hope she comes out with more books, because she is one to watch out for.

  • Robin
    2019-03-24 06:23

    When I finished reading this book last night I was left with an odd feeling because it contains no author information whatsoever. I don't understand why we only get this author's life thus far, what made her write this book, as compelling as the narrative is, I missed her motivation. Maybe I need to take a closer look at it. The author's story about a family who flees Cambodia and settles in Australia is another story about a young person caught between cultures. Even though she grows up in Australia, she doesn't consider herself an Australian because she's not a "white ghost," she is Chinese and lives according to the social norms imposed on her by her family's culture.Her story moves along quite easily until she turns 17 and suffers from crippling anxiety and depression which took me by surprise even though it shouldn't have because her mother suffers similar symptoms for a while. This would be a great book club discussion and I plan to suggest it to my group.

  • Thevuni Kotigala
    2019-03-20 10:39

    Interesting book! It talks about Cambodia under Pol Pot's regime and the horror of it. It talks about migrants' lives and the hardships they go through. It talks about beautiful Melbourne (to be more precise, diverse Footscray). It talks about many things. What I like the most is how the author explains her life with her Asian parents and relatives - it surely is different from Western parents and relatives. But why I love this book the most is, because it reminds me of my second hometown Melbourne - it feels so close to my heart. Thank you Larry and Cynthia for this book, Australia wouldn't be that great without you guys in it.

  • Saturday's Child
    2019-03-08 07:30

    I enjoyed this because it gave me a brief insight into what it is like for people to resettle their lives in a foreign country, I also enjoyed it because Alice and her family lived in Melbourne. I'm not sure why but the most memorable part for me was the evening meal that was not quiet what it seemed.

  • Wendy
    2019-03-21 12:21

    I usually don't give ratings to memoirs (it makes me feel like I'm rating the person rather than the book...) but I loved the honesty and the beautiful writing in Unpolished Gem. Some incredibly poignant moments.

  • pinknantucket
    2019-02-24 10:36

    A lovely book. Pung writes with a lovely voice; teenage love angst at the end is a bit painful but then that's accurate, isn't it? Also nice to read about Footscray. Can't help thinking what enormously different childhoods we had.

  • Ostelin Randa
    2019-02-25 07:21

    English novel. Bit bleh in some areas but the asian-ness was incredibly accurate. Touches on mental health issues and migrants in society. It was a memoir so the plot wasn't as enjoyable as a normal fiction novel where anything can happen.

  • Michelle Douglas
    2019-03-25 14:26

    I love the way Alice Pung writes -- her descriptions are fresh and interesting. I found this a moving and thought-provoking memoir.

  • Abigail W
    2019-02-28 06:47

    I loved every single minute of this book BUTTTT the ending was so awkward it didn't feel like the end.

  • Krystal
    2019-03-17 13:39

    This was a reading assignment for Sociology in my first year of uni, and I wasn't particularly keen on it but it turned out to be less painful than I'd anticipated. Pung is a great writer - able to balance honesty and comedy, and so tell a tale that leaves you feeling for her but not crushed by pity and overwhelming sadness. Humour has a way of endearing the recipient, so a story that reflects honestly and makes the jokes for you is a refreshing read. This is an insightful story that will allow you to experience life from a point of view you might otherwise not get to see. If you're into memoirs and tales of overcoming adversity, this one is for you.

  • Wendyjune
    2019-03-21 09:44

    I feel like this book will follow me around for a long time. Pung's descriptions and observations are so vivid and convincing. I feel like I really got to step into her life and live it for a while, and it was a gift. Making me love her family nearly as much as she did.I loved in the final chapter the description of her mother layered up in a cacophony of clothes (topped off with a footy beanie) and her father in his simple flannel PJ's and leather jacket, busy sharing a mango- that scene is simply amazing. So many in this book are.

  • Phoenix Rising
    2019-03-21 13:26

    Will work on this later since my laptop is about to die.Extremely wonderful.

  • Charli
    2019-03-16 10:23

    Alice Pungs quirky sense of humour really brings this story of immigration and Australia to life. If you’re looking for a different story of immigration, this book will be perfect for you.

  • Buchdoktor
    2019-03-21 12:47

    InhaltDie Geschichte des Mädchens Alice begann schon vor ihrer Geburt als sie im Bauch ihrer Mutter aus einem Flüchtlingslager in Vietnam nach Australien kam. Alices chinesischstämmige Großmutter Huyen muss viele Male die Familiengeschichten erzählen, ehe Alice versteht, warum Mutter und Großmutter nach Jahren in Australien noch immer nur Teochew, den Dialekt der chinesischen Provinz Guangdong, sprechen. Die Oma kam aus China nach Kambodscha; arbeitete, wurde die zweite Frau eines erheblich älteren Mannes. Vor dem Pol-Pot-Regime und dessen Killing Fields floh die Familie nach Thailand. "Australien oder Kanada?" wurde Alices Vater im thailändischen Flüchtingslager gefragt. "Austalien", antwortete er, da er wusste, dass es in Kanada Schnee gibt. So kam es, dass Alices Eltern zu Fuß durch drei asiatische Staaten marschierten und schließlich nach Melbourne gelangten. Großeltern, Tanten und Cousinen folgen der jungen Familie, sobald sie es sich leisten können. Um in Melbournes Asiaten-Viertel Footscray zurechtzukommen, muss man die Kunst des knallharten Handelns beherrschen, aber nicht unbedingt Lesen und Schreiben können. Angesehen ist hier, wer auf dem Markt den frischesten Fisch erkennt und Hühner lebend kauft.Alices Eltern arbeiten und sparen, bis der Vater ein eigenes Geschäft eröffnen kann. Die Mutter produziert zu Hause Goldschmuck; der Großvater bestellt den Garten hinter dem Haus. Man will ja keine Schande über die Rasse bringen, darum bleiben die chinesischen Küchenkräuter streng außerhalb der Sichtweite der Nachbarn. Alice wird von der Großmutter betreut, die sie in kleine wattierte Maoanzüge und seltsame Schlafanzugteile kleidet. Das Verhältnis zwischen Mutter und Großmutter ist alles andere als harmonisch, Enkelin Alice fühlt sich wie eine Informantin, die zwischen Oma und Mutter die Fronten wechselt und von den Gegenparteien ausgehorcht wird. Im Rückblick wird es Alice so vorkommen, als wäre ihre Mutter ständig erschöpft von der Arbeit und immer schwanger gewesen. Als Älteste ist sie mit nur 9 Jahren für ihre beiden jüngeren Schwestern verantwortlich, oft todunglücklich über die wenige Freizeit, die ihr bleibt. Mädchen in asiatischen Familien reifen schnell. Es bleibt ihnen nichts anderes übrig, wenn sie so früh Verantwortung tragen müssen.Nach dem Tod der Großmutter, die Alice wie eine Wortzauberin mit ihren Geschichten eine Identität gab, verstummt Alice ihrer Mutter gegenüber, die noch immer kaum Englisch spricht. Alice kann inzwischen zu wenig Chinesisch, um einer Erwachsenen Australien zu erklären. Erst viel später wird Alice verstehen, warum ihre Mutter, die in Kambodscha nur ein Jahr zur Schule gegangen war, ihren Englisch-Anfängerkurs wütend aufgibt. Wer seinen Lebensunterhalt immer selbst als Markthändlerin verdient hat, kann in diesem Kurs nichts für sein Leben lernen; denn Geschäfte werden in Footscray auf Ehrenwort und ohne Schriftkram gemacht. Als das Familiengeschäft längst erfolgreich ist, kann Alices Mutter nicht loslassen - welchen Sinn sollte ihr Leben ohne Arbeit haben? Umgeben von Wohlstand wird sie depressiv. Auch Alice wird nach ihrem Schulabschluss in tiefe Depressionen versinken, weil sie sich trotz allerbester Leistungen zunächst kein Studium zutraut.FazitAlice Pung erzählt mit ihrer Biografie ein Auswandererschicksal, das den Lebensläufen vieler Immigranten ähnelt. Die Treffsicherheit, mit der die junge australische Autorin ihre Gefühlswelt als kleines Mädchen oder als Schülerin zeichnet, macht Pungs Erinnerungen zu einer herausragenden Biografie. Punktgenau trifft sie den lüstern-verschämten Ton, in dem Familiengeschichten über weggegebene Kinder und Zweitfrauen erzählt werden und lästert mit dem altklugen Zynismus Pubertierender darüber, wie sie mit 12 Jahren und ihrer ersten Nähmaschine aus Begeisterung für das Nähen zur Produktpiratin wurde. Die Autorin zeigt sehr kritisch und dabei völlig unlarmoyant den Druck auf Kinder asiatischer Familien auf, ihre Dankbarkeit gegenüber ihren hart arbeitenden Eltern durch beste Schul-Leistungen zu zeigen. Bis sie heiraten - natürlich einen Partner asiatischer Herkunft - werden die Töchter als "ungeschliffener Diamant" streng von der Familie gehütet. Das tiefe Verständnis der erwachsenen Alice Pung für die Situation ihrer Großmutter und ihrer Eltern bewundere ich; es macht mir ihre literarische Figur Alice so sympathisch, dass ich deren Weg zum persönlichen Glück gern noch ein paar Kapitel länger verfolgt hätte.Fortsetzung unter dem Titel Her Father's Daughter

  • Kaye
    2019-03-07 13:47

    In her debut memoir, Unpolished Gem, Alice Pung narrates the story of her family's settling in Australia. They arrive from Cambodia with nothing except the expectation of a new baby in a month's time. When the child is born, her father names her Alice because he thought Australia to be a wonderland. This is really the story of Alice, her mother, her grandmother and their assimilation into a culture so very different from their own. Alice's mother and grandmother are still clinging to a lot of their Chinese heritage whereas Alice's only frame of reference is Australia. She recounts how difficult it is for her mother to acclimatize herself to the new country; learning English, conducting her jewelry business and just everyday life. Her grandmother seems to adapt more easily. Alice becomes the go- between to her mother and grandmother and this creates some tension at times. Alice feels like she is Chinese at home and Australian outside. Alice says the life of a Chinese woman is constantly, sighing, lying and dying and that she wants no part of it.Growing up amid two different cultures is not always easy. Throughout the story, Alice was very attached to her grandmother and her story telling. Unfortunately, when her grandmother passed away, Alice lost her sense of youthful security and knowing exactly who she was while growing up and trying to find her proper place in the world. Alice felt that her grandmother had affirmed Alice's existence. During adolescence, Alice experienced a severe depression and extreme angst dealing with the realities of becoming a young woman. Her self esteem suffered as did her hopes for the future. How her parents thought she should conduct herself and their hopes for her were not quite the same as what Alice thought. This is normally the case between parents and children but when there are different cultural ideals it is harder to deal with. This is where the story began to lose some of my interest. The writing seemed more rambling to me. In the beginning, there were a lot of humorous accounts of everday life and some wonderful flashback moments of life before emigration; how her parents met, their engagement and how they, along with Alice's grandmother and aunt had walked through several countries before they finally emigrated to Australia. The differences between the cultures was extremely interesting and the characterizations were very well done. It was very easy to imagine Alice's mother and grandmother. The last quarter of the book was not quite so engaging. I think I would have liked to have seen more of the back story but it was a book about blending in a new culture. Maybe Ms. Pung should consider a pre-quel because that would be an interesting stroy. Overall, it is still a good book, just not a great one. If you enjoy memoirs and cultural differences, you might like this one. 3***

  • Katie Haden
    2019-03-08 11:49

    Put it down... Stopped for a minute... and then just cried. What a beautiful, beautiful book.

  • Kleiner
    2019-03-02 09:38

    Pung's family escaped the killing fields of Cambodia, walking from Vietnam to a refugee camp in Thailand. Pung was born in 1981, one month after her family (i.e., her father, mother, and her father's mother and sister) arrived in Melbourne, Australia. Being only twenty-seven years old, Pung's memoir is only of her first eighteen years.In the memoir of her early childhood, Pung recounts her family's life before Australia. These stories captured Pung's childhood imagination, as evident in her retelling. She conjures up images of her mother riding on the back of her father's bicycle in Vietnam, trying to lose her aunt who accompanied the unmarried couple everywhere; her grandmother trying to swap one of her five sons for a girl. Through vivid details Pung paints a portrait of her family in Australia - the bowl haircuts; the used, brightly colored, mismatched clothing; the house full of plastic knickknacks.The familiar starts to set in when Pung relates her family's endeavor to achieve the Australian dream; hard-working, insular immigrant parents who cannot connect with their child who is growing up in a different culture and a child suffering anxiety from cultural clashes and the pressure to excel in school.Pung fails to portray her own story with any real depth. She writes of the turmoil of abiding by Chinese customs while living in Western society; however, the reader is not quite convinced. She portrays her own story as that of ordinary adolescent angst - the struggle between becoming an individual and family expectations. The reader does not learn whom Pung is beyond her family - what she journals about or who her friends are.She writes that, to her, being a Chinese woman means "[c:]onstantly sighing and lying and dying...and I want nothing to do with it." Yet, her only near-deviant act was dating a Caucasian boy during her first year in college. In ending the relationship, Pung alludes to a fear of not keeping with the traditional Chinese custom of female purity. "I adored him. It was so easy to make him happy, I just had to be me....I was running out, there wasn't much left of me to give....And the only thing of value left of me to give him would leave me valueless."American readers are familiar with the story of first-generation children of Asian immigrants. Unpolished Gem is not a fresh take on the all-too-familiar story. While set in Australia, Pung could have easily grown up in the United States. Also, given the lack of personal depth, there are no new lessons to be learned. As memoirs go, Pung is relatively young; perhaps she has not yet realized the meaning of all these experiences.