Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung
My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me

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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 Alice Pung

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Alice Pung was born in Australia in 1981, one month after her parents migrated from Cambodia. She is now a writer and a lawyer. This is her first book.
Published December 24, 2008 by Plume. 308 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction

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With a painter’s eye for detail and the heightened sensibility of someone caught between lands, Pung poignantly describes the contrasts of her family’s brave new world: “The refugees staying at the Midway Migrant Hilton hoard packets of sugar, jam and honey from the breakfast table.

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Publishers Weekly

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“I was doomed, early on, to be a word-spreader,” Pung writes, and her special burden was “to tell these stories that the women of my family made me promise never to tell a soul.” The stories are not of scandalous secrets or shocking revelations, but of the struggles faced by three generations of ...

Sep 29 2008 | Read Full Review of Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My...

USA Today

Alice Pung doesn't remember her parents' country.

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Deseret News

In 1974, the Khmer Rouge army headed by the dictator Pol Pot took over Cambodia, ruthlessly initiating a communist program that forced the entire population to work as laborers on collective farms.

Feb 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My...


A writer, novelist, and reviewer who loves words in al forms, Adair Jones regularly contributes to a variety of publications on literary subjects.

Jan 31 2009 | Read Full Review of Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My...

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