Close to Home by Alice Pung
Alice Pung arrived on the Australian literary scene with the 2006 publication of her memoir, Unpolished Gem. She has since gone on to write a second memoir, a series of children’s books, a young adult novel, various essays and short fiction, as well as edit two anthologies, earning herself a reputation as a revitalising force in local literature. Close to Home brings together a collection of her short non-fiction writing over the years and it is a book that will delight fans as much as newcomers.
The essays collected here are divided into loosely themed sections and while many centre on ideas of home and homecoming, they cover a diverse range of themes – from the expansive (migration, class, racism, and the power of literature), to the specific (doll museums, birthing classes, and what people actually buy at Kmart at 3am). In some pieces, she delves into the hidden corners of Australian society, and in others she unpacks her family heritage and past, or shares anecdotes and reflections from her travels.
What remains unchanged through this sprawling collection of ideas is Pung’s distinctive voice – her humour, candour, generosity and attentiveness shine through, making it impossible to think of Pung in any kind of box but her own. In the essay where she explains how and why she had to take risks in writing about her father for her second memoir, Her Father’s Daughter, she speaks openly of the pitfalls of telling migrant stories: ‘If I placed the more shocking ‘killing fields’ chapters of the book first, the book would inevitably and simply follow the migrant trajectory of “success”, but my father would always be seen as an eternal “refugee” because our current mainstream discourse about “those who’ve come across the seas” is polarising and unsophisticated.’
Funny, tender and wholly charming, Close to Home is certain to inspire thought and compassion.