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Unpolished Gem

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,169 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 282 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Black Inc. (first published August 26th 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,149)
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Apr 03, 2011 Trevor rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
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 b
Lee Kofman
Jun 19, 2016 Lee Kofman rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Nina {ᴡᴏʀᴅs ᴀɴᴅ ᴡᴀᴛᴇʀ}
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 colou
Aug 28, 2009 C. rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Melburnians
Recommended to C. by: MU bookclub
Shelves: australian, 2009
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 ...more
Nor Azzah
Dec 14, 2014 Nor Azzah rated it really liked it
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 ten
Mar 24, 2011 Emily rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Asians, Asians living in a western country, Westerners who would like to peek into the Asians' lives
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
Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)
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 gr ...more
Sulis Peri Hutan
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 m ...more
Mar 31, 2016 MaggyGray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books-in-2016
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 ni
Penni Russon
Jan 01, 2013 Penni Russon rated it it was amazing
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.
Thevuni Kotigala
May 10, 2015 Thevuni Kotigala rated it really liked it
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 Melbou ...more
Lien Vong
Nov 20, 2008 Lien Vong rated it it was ok
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 "As ...more
May 20, 2010 Ari rated it it was ok
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 s
Jan 15, 2012 Jo rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Apr 21, 2009 Robin rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who like memoirs
Shelves: memoirs, 2009-list
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 Aust
Michelle Douglas
Jun 30, 2014 Michelle Douglas rated it really liked it
I love the way Alice Pung writes -- her descriptions are fresh and interesting. I found this a moving and thought-provoking memoir.
Ostelin Randa
Apr 15, 2016 Ostelin Randa rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-paper
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.
May 05, 2016 Sonia rated it really liked it
I was hooked by the time I had read the prologue.

I loved the way this explored what it means to be an immigrant in Australia and the way offspring of immigrants have to try to exist in the cultural realities of where they live and where they come from.

Although this occasionally read as a not quite truthful account of past events, it also had a real honesty and poignancy, as the emotion attached to the events and memories always felt genuine.

There was a lot of humour in the book, I laughed a lo
Christine Zibas
Feb 13, 2016 Christine Zibas rated it it was amazing
There's something about the tale of a new immigrant that allows us to see our own world in a new way. In this debut nonfiction memoir by Alice Pung, the stories contained within Unpolished Gem reflect the conflicts (both internal and external) of a person straddling two worlds, the ultimate outsider, never comfortable in either.

Even though Pung herself was born in Australia (her parents landed there from the killing fields of Cambodia when her mother was eight months pregnant with her), her lif
Erma Farai
Sejak Komedi a la Persia dan Tertawa a la Persia, saya ketagihan membaca genre sejenis. Novel kultural. Menyajikan cara pandang yang berbeda mengenai sebuah wilayah dengan penduduknya. Dan tokoh dari sisi minoritas seperti Alice mengajarkan saya banyak hal, terutama tak peduli betapa kita berusaha memakai baju yang berbeda, dalam kepala dan hati kita selalu bergelut warna yang sama...

Saya tersenyum-senyum membaca bagaimana Alice tak nyaman berduaan dengan 'setan putih'nya, merasa dibuntuti dan a
Hana Bilqisthi
udah lama banget pengen baca buku ini dari tahun 2011
Alhamdulillah akhirnya kesampaian. Thanks to Kame yang udah minjemin

Awal-awal cerita baca buku ini bikin nyengir
tapi lama-lama bikin sakit kepala
soalnya ALice, ibunya dan neneknya ternyata mudah cemas
bahkan mereka sempat depresi
gue tahu ada pikiran2 yang terkadang mencoba menjatuhkan dirimu (negative self talk)
dan thanks to this book, I am realized I am not alone.
Membaca buku ini membuat lebih bersyukur karena seperti yang orang tua Alice ser
Abigail W
Jan 25, 2016 Abigail W rated it it was amazing
I loved every single minute of this book BUTTTT the ending was so awkward it didn't feel like the end.
Jan 01, 2016 Lynley rated it really liked it
Alice Pung's Laurinda was one of my favourite books of last year, and because I read that so recently it was a little difficult at first to separate the fictional family of Laurinda from Pung's real family in this book.

Unfortunately, I listened to the audio book instead of reading inside my head, and the narrator was faced with the same problem all audio book narrators are faced with when rendering non-native English speakers: How to make two different voices from the same person sound like the
Saturday's Child
Aug 08, 2016 Saturday's Child rated it liked it
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.
Jan 06, 2010 pinknantucket rated it really liked it
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.
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.
Iona Carroll
Feb 21, 2016 Iona Carroll rated it liked it
Unpolished Gem is the autobiography of a young Chinese Cambodian girl who lives with her family in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray. I found it very interesting to read about the challenges faced by an immigrant family trying to assimilate into a different culture and it helped me, a white Australian and a writer, to appreciate this struggle to overcome. I found the various family members were a little confusing. However, most family trees can be somewhat bewildering to non-family. Overall, the ...more
Jul 02, 2014 Emily rated it liked it
Interesting read... I feel like the prose itself could've done with a bit of polishing/editing but considering it's Pung's first novel, it's a decent read. Although her writing voice is intended as witty, it felt overzealous and whingy the more I read, which became tiring. Perhaps Pung was aiming to squeeze in too much in the one book? It kind of felt like that to me... I get that it was supposed to use some 'tongue-in-cheek' humour, however it came across as condescending and I felt like the au ...more
Tadashi Hamada
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
Jul 27, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this memoir about growing up Asian in Australia. Being Asian myself and having studied abroad, it can be quite hard to fit in with peers from another culture. It must be harder if you are actually living with parents and are pulled in two directions. The book also describes the author's parents' experience of the Pol Pot years in Cambodia, so the book is definitely not all smiles and funny anecdotes. In fact, what happens in the book is not funny at all, though the author did write abo ...more
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Alice was born in Footscray, Victoria, a month after her parents Kuan and Kien arrived in Australia. Alice’s father, Kuan - a survivor of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime - named her after Lewis Carroll’s character because after surviving the Killing Fields, he thought Australia was a Wonderland. Alice is the oldest of four - she has a brother, Alexander, and two sisters, Alison and Alina.

Alice grew u
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