Book Review: All You Can Ever Know

Book Review: All You Can Ever KnowAll You Can Ever Know: A Memoir
by Nicole Chung
on October 2, 2018
Pages: 240
Published by Catapult
Genres: Diverse Spines, Memoir
Goodreads

What does it mean to lose your roots—within your culture, within your family—and what happens when you find them?

Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From early childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hopes of giving her a better life; that forever feeling slightly out of place was simply her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as she grew up—facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from—she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.

With warmth, candor, and startling insight, Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child. All You Can Ever Know is a profound, moving chronicle of surprising connections and the repercussions of unearthing painful family secrets—vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.

My Takeaway
“Family lore given to us as children has such hold over us, such staying power.”
Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know

All You Can Ever Know resonated with me on several levels. Chung’s story and writing captivated me from the get-go. Although I was not adopted in the traditional way, my mom was deceitful in leading me to believe my stepdad was my biological father. When I was born, my mom cleverly left my biological father’s name from the birth certificate. When she married my stepdad years later, she updated my birth certificate and added his name as my father. I was not made aware of this action until years later. I have a vague memory of going to the first grade and having my mom’s last name. When I returned the following year for second grade, my last name was different.

When I was 12-years-old a distant cousin informed me of my real father’s name. I did not believe him and he suggested I ask my mom. Eventually, the truth and secret came to light. I was shocked and notably upset. It was one of the most difficult times in my life and one I buried deep for years. Reading All You Can Ever Know flooded me with immense feelings and long forgotten memories. The search for my biological father began when I was 13-years-old. It took me thirty-one years to locate him and his family. Sadly, my father passed away in 1995, when I was 21-years-old. I often think about how different our lives might have been if we were in each other’s worlds. Chung’s beautifully written memoir attests how important and necessary it is to know where one comes from. I highly recommend this book not just to adoptees, but to anyone searching or who has searched for their birth parents.

Nicole Chung
January 27, 2019

Thank you to Edelweiss and Catapult for an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Not only did I buy myself a copy, but I’ve also been lucky enough to meet Nicole twice!

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