UNPOLISHED GEM: MY MOTHER, MY GRANDMOTHER, AND ME: a memoir

Dear Reader,

In Unpolished Gem, author Alice Pung successfully describes what it means to be sentenced to be a first-generation daughter born to Chinese immigrants in Australia. But, given the similarities of her experiences to, say, the protagonist’s in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, she could just as well been born in the United States. As in The Joy Luck Club, Pung is expected to adhere to traditional Chinese customs without benefit of being surrounded by Chinese culture.  She clearly relates the turmoil, guilt, and depression this causes her.  She also  shares her relatives’ expressions and behavior–endearingly so.

Pung less successfully ties her life to her mother and grandmother’s lives, to their upbringing and experiences in China and war ravaged Cambodia. Her intellectual connection to them comes through, her emotional/heart connection does not. Her youth may be responsible for this lack; she was born in 1980. (Youth is not a criticism.)

I encourage Pang to revisit this story ten years from now. I suspect she will see greater opportunities to polish her story, opportunities she can’t possibly imagine now. I look forward to seeing what she writes then.

Do I suggest you read Unpolished Gem? For entertainment? Sure. As an example of a well developed memoir? No.

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