Review: UNPOLISHED GEM by Alice Pung

I asked my friend, Karen, if she would like to do a guest review for any of the recent 'review' books I've gotten.
She chose Unpolished Gem and this is her review.

“Sometimes your cultural heritage is both a blessing and a burden.” I heard this comment on the day I finished Alice Pung’s memoir, Unpolished Gem, and I thought it summed up the book very well. Alice’s Chinese heritage is central to her life. A child of Chinese immigrants who have reached Australia by way of Cambodia, Alice has an incredibly rich family life. The bonds of daughter to mother and daughter to grandmother are fierce. But trying to reconcile herself to the family expectations and traditions can be a real source of anxiety for Alice – particularly in her high-school and college years. You get the sense of a strict code of behaviour. There is a lot of talk of “doom” – the state in which you will find yourself if you step too far away from the accepted behaviour. How does she reconcile the blessings and the burdens of her deeply-felt heritage? Sometimes she manages very well; other times, not. But I suppose it is an experience shared by many children of recent immigrants as they feel the push and pull of the new world against the old.

Language and storytelling are an important part of this book. I loved the way Pung’s words drew pictures in my mind. When describing herself as an anxious, crying newborn, she talks of a “creature with the howling hole in her face.” Gossipers are word-spreaders, and the worst kind of gossip is “words with bones in them.” Alice’s grandmother, we learn, was a great storyteller, and Alice seems to have this gift. I really wanted to find out what was going to happen to the small girl in the Mao suit. A fast, engrossing read – I’ve recommended it to friends already.

Thanks Karen!


avisannschild on April 16, 2009 at 12:35 PM said...

This sounds like a great book! I enjoyed this review!

bermudaonion on April 16, 2009 at 12:38 PM said...

Great review, Karen. I'm looking forward to reading this book now.

Cindy on April 16, 2009 at 4:39 PM said...

Donna you will have to let Karen know the review was great. I think I am going to have to push this up on my TBR pile now. See you tomorrow.


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