Unpolished Gem

My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me

By Alice Pung
(Plume Books, Paperback, 9780452290006, 282pp.)

Publication Date: February 2009

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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 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.

About the Author
Alice Pung is the author of Unpolished Gem and Her Father's Daughter and the editor of the anthology Growing Up Asian in Australia. Alice's work has appeared in the Monthly, Good Weekend, the Age, The Best Australian Stories and Meanjin.

Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com


  1. When Alice's mother, father, aunt, and grandmother arrive in Australia, they are amazed by the shared wealth of its citizens and the generosity of the government when it comes to housing, feeding, and educating the fast-growing immigrant population. How does Pung convey the extent of her family's first impression of Australia and, as her grandmother calls it, "Father Government"?

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