Unpolished Gem


Alice Pung

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Alice Pung / Agheare

Kien and Kuan’s daughter, Huyen Thai’s granddaughter, and the protagonist of Unpolished Gem. Alice is the first Pung born on Australian soil after her family escapes the violence of Pol Pot and… read analysis of Alice Pung / Agheare

Kien Pung

Alice’s mother, Kuan’s wife, and the antagonist of Unpolished Gem. Kien first meets her husband while working in his Cambodian factory as a young girl, but she doesn’t fall in love with… read analysis of Kien Pung

Huyen Thai

Alice’s grandmother, Kuan’s mother, Kien’s mother-in-law, and An Pung’s wife. Huyen Thai is of ethnic Teochew origin, but she is forced to leave China after boldly speaking out against the government… read analysis of Huyen Thai

Kuan Pung

Alice’s father, Kien’s husband, and Huyen Thai’s son. Kuan escapes the Killing Fields of Cambodia and walks through three countries with his wife, mother, and sister, just to try to have a… read analysis of Kuan Pung


Alice’s white, Australian boyfriend, and the “white ghost” Kien fears her daughter will marry. Michael, like Alice, is studying to become a lawyer. He has wanted to be a lawyer ever since he watched… read analysis of Michael
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An Pung

Alice’s grandfather, Kuan’s father, and Huyen Thai’s husband. An is a school teacher in Cambodia, and he already has a wife and two daughters when he meets Huyen Thai. Despite not being… read analysis of An Pung

Alina Pung

Alice’s sister, and Kuan and Kien’s youngest child. Because Kien is always busy working, Alice must practically raise Alina after she is born. She feeds her and tests the milk on her wrist… read analysis of Alina Pung

Chia Tang

Kien’s father and Alice’s grandfather. Chia Tang, along with his wife, Outside Ma, represent the old country. He wears a Mao suit made by Outside Ma, and he keeps his money buried… read analysis of Chia Tang


Alice’s aunt, Huyen Thai’s daughter, and Kuan’s sister. Que moves to Australia with her mother, brother, and Kien, and they all live together for a while when they first arrive in… read analysis of Que

Alexander Pung

Alice’s brother, and Kien and Kuan’s son. Alexander’s parents don’t expect him to do the same amount of work as Alice because he is a boy and is less mature. However, he is… read analysis of Alexander Pung


Kuan’s first fiancé arranged by his father, An Pung. Not long after An makes the arrangement, Pol Pot takes over and their two families are sent to separate camps. All of Sokem’s family… read analysis of Sokem

Little Brother

Huyen Thai and An Pung’s daughter. Little Brother is their second daughter, but she is built like a boy. She is mischievous and refuses to wear dresses, and she is a source of extreme… read analysis of Little Brother

Alison Pung

Alice’s younger sister, and Kien and Kuan’s third child. Alice spends most of her time taking care of Alison after she is born, which is thankless work. Alice’s parents only seem to notice… read analysis of Alison Pung

Ah BuKien

A friend of Kien and Kuan Pung. Ah BuKien gets rich selling rice-noodles, and she wants Alice to marry her son. Ah BuKien is an unlikable woman who brags about her money and calls… read analysis of Ah BuKien


Alice’s cousin and Frank’s daughter. Melanie marries a white man and the whole Pung family calls him the “Round Red-Haired Demon” to Melanie’s face, except for Frank, who loves his son-in-law like his… read analysis of Melanie

Uncle Frank

Alice’s uncle and Melanie’s father. Frank can’t seem to “escape the counter-effects of colonialism,” and he is ecstatic when Melanie marries a white man. He sees his son-in-law’s white skin as a sort… read analysis of Uncle Frank
Minor Characters
Kien’s sister and Alice’s aunt. Ly is what Alice calls “true cutting-edge Chinese chic.” She moves to Australia with Sim when Alice is young, and she lives in an apartment at the housing commission.
Kien’s sister. Sim works in Kuan’s electronics shop, and she does the work of three people without complaining. When she takes time off to have a baby, Kien fills in for her and becomes the best salesperson in the shop.