Unpolished Gem tells the story of growing up with a Chinese-Cambodian family in Australia, Alice dives headfirst into schooling, romance and the getting of wisdom. Meanwhile, her mother becomes an Aussie Battler - an outworker, that is, her father starts up a chain of electrical appliance stores, and her grandmother blesses Father Government every day for giving old people money. (Back cover blurb).
Unit Suitable ForAC: Senior Secondary Literature (Year 12, Unit 3)
Find a summary table for Australian Curriculum: English content descriptions and NSW syllabus outcomes for this unit.
Australian identity, coming of age, Day of the Girl, family, impact of family on the individual, importance of story, Language, mental illness, oppresssion, power of language, resilience, women
Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Intercultural understanding, Literacy
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia
'More than a decade after her best-selling debut, Unpolished Gem, Alice Pung remains one of Australia’s most beloved authors for her gentle yet forthright prose. She speaks about racism, role models and motherhood. “As a writer, I don’t know if you can really see from another person’s perspective … It is important to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but I’ve realised in the last five years you can never really do it.” By Jessica Zhan Mei Yu.' (Introduction)
'This paper analyses the memoirs of Australian writer Alice Pung in the contexts of her suburban Melbourne upbringing, her parents’ status as refugees, and Cambodia’s Pol Pot period. The author discusses the changed way Pung deals with the Pol Pot period from Unpolished Gem (2006) to Her Father’s Daughter (2011), and in particular the necessary disjointedness that is a consequence of the latter memoir’s more direct and deep focus on Pung’s father’s experiences during the Pol Pot period. The author concludes by locating Pung’s works, particularly Her Father’s Daughter, among various other memoirs of the Pol Pot period, including poet U Sam Oeur’s memoir, Crossing Three Wildernesses (2005). Placed among other memoirs of survival and loss, the author suggests, Pung brings a distinctive perspective as the child of a survivor of the Pol Pot period.' (Publication abstract)