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Because there had been a dearth of Asian Australian literature when I was growing up, I compiled this book with the hope that it would alleviate the loneliness of young Asians growing up in Australia. I generally start off with a feeling – an emotional truth I want to convey, and go from there.In America I know there are departments dedicated to Asian-American studies. I end up in unusual and unexpected places – but somehow in retrospect, they seem exactly where the writing should take me.Growing up as one of only three Indian kids at school and struggling to fit in, Sunil Badami was called a lot of things – curry muncher, towel head ... Despite his mother's excellent advice about what to do when being called names, there was one that really got under his skin: his .
I edited Growing Up Asian in Australia to show to a wider audience that there is more than one or two Asian Australian voices out there.
This anthology hopes to bring together the different experiences of Asian Australians – from different states, ages and circumstances.
My father, on the other hand, has read my book about three times – each time armed with a heavy dictionary, as English is of course not his first language.
He speaks Teochew, Khmer, French, Cantonese, Mandarin and English (my mother also speaks five languages – unfortunately none of them are English).
My parents are very different – my mother the strong practical keeper of didactic stories, my father the silent but reflective thinker; but they are both very proud of me. What motivated you to begin writing and publishing in the first place?
Writing my book – and it is a book that contains many family secrets and discards the obsession with face-saving – has made me realize how unconditional my parents’ love is. There is a strong element of saving face in our community, and sometimes this is to the detriment of genuine compassion and understanding.We don’t have anything like that here yet, despite the efforts of some very dedicated academics and individuals, and despite the fact that Asian Australians have been in Australia since 1810. Sometimes you have to just let go and let the story carry you where it needs to.The expression ‘taking you out for a ride’ has really shonky connotations, but sometimes it is just nice to be taken out for a ride!So, the literature she read around our house came twice a week, in the form of Safeway, Bi-Lo, Target ads. At what point did you collect all these stories and then give it to someone, or did you just have a couple and you gave it to a publisher? So, those are the books we had, besides the ones we borrowed from the library, and this book that was given to us by the Australian Government, when every new refugee arrives, about poisonous animals in Australia. So was it a family then, if it wasn't a family obviously of books, was it a family where stories were told and encouraged, where conversation was very much story-based? And you know, I had these parents and this grandmother, came straight out of the killing fields, my grandmother – five thousand people in a collective, she was the only old person to survive, and she was a great storyteller. So, you're at university, you realised you were living in this world that was interesting. Alice: Oh, well I kept writing short stories, and I kept submitting them to different publications. I think he read my short story, because he gave me a call out of the blue and said, ‘You've got a really interesting and unique voice, and your story sounds like it's part of a novel’. Growing up my father never censored my writing, and always gave me a sense of liberty and security to speak or write what was on my mind.My father is one of those rare sorts of parents who believed – and still believes – that one’s children can teach you much about life.ABOUT ALICE PUNGAlice Pung was born in Australia in 1981, one month after her parents migrated from Cambodia. But ironically, telling stories – and telling didactic stories – is what she does best.I learned how to write from a woman who could not read and write – because she taught me how to see the world, beyond the attachment of words.Her perspective of three generations—her grandmother’s, her mother’s, and her own—presents moments of great humor as well as moments of acute emotional pain. It is also a story about being illiterate, and about the importance of the non-verbal truths in life.In the end, her tale of three women surviving a new land—and each other—is enlightening and memorable, reaffirming for us the indomitable, lasting character and strength of family. Even if I were able to read it to my mother, she would think it were a waste of time, as she spends her time in productive work; not telling stories.