All You Can Ever Know – Nicole Chung

#book-review #book-blogger


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 review

Nicole Chung’s memoir is open, honest and moving. I am in awe of the courage taken to share her personal story.

This is a story of one adoptee whose story is alike in ways, yet completely different to other adoptees worldwide, as it is one person’s personal story. Nicole discusses her feelings of loss, separation, abandonment, cultural displacement and love within her family. Everyone who has been adopted has their own story and this is Nicole’s honest reflection. The way she opens up to the reader is beautiful, especially her use of rhetorical questions. These questions she asks herself are significant to understand how she is feeling and how she reaches certain mindsets, making certain decisions throughout her life.

I decided that reading Nicole Chung’s story was a must. After attending an adoption seminar for prospective adoptive parents, I felt a range of emotions and had the realisation that no matter how difficult times will be, my belief is that every child deserves a loving family. My family and I wholeheartedly appreciate Nicole’s statement on adoption ‘I urge people to go into it with their eyes open, recognising how complex it truly is; I encourage adopted people to tell stories, our stories, and let no one else define these experiences for us.’ If one makes a decision to grow their family via adoption, the hope is that they do so with open hearts, minds and an understanding of the need for open adoption in this day and age. As a hopeful future adoptive eomma, I will be eternally grateful for the courage of the birth mother to do what she felt was in the best interest of her child, with more courage than I could ever imagine.

Nicole’s memoir made my heart ache as I read of her feelings of racial discrimination and cultural displacement. This can happen anywhere in the world and my hope is that this is happening less and less as people are further connected with other cultures around the world. In Australia, although we are a multicultural society, especially in my home town and even more so in large cities, my hope is that someday soon racial discrimination will not occur in schools at all. As a society, we need to teach our children to show love towards one another without exception. Nicole’s experiences at school with other children left me feeling shocked at the hurtful nature of the comments made.

As a mother, I was moved by Nicole’s experiences and views on motherhood. I also believe that appreciating all of the little moments and realising how lucky us mums who have birthed our own children are, to be able to witness each milestone. Being a mum is who I am first and foremost, so it is lovely to read of a mum who also considers motherhood in this way. Every decision Nicole made to connect with her birth family was taken with consideration for her own child. From her story, I can see that Nicole is a beautiful mum.

Thank you Nicole Chung for your honesty, sincerity and for opening my eyes further. You have given me the hard truths and further confirmation of what is truly important to an adopted child. This memoir is a must read.

3 thoughts on “All You Can Ever Know – Nicole Chung

  1. Melanie, a superb review of a book that’s now calling to me! It must have been an incredible journey for Nicole to write this and it sounds like a heart wrenching and warming read …. it’s on my wish list! Many thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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