Nicole Chung has known she was adopted since she was old enough to understand the concept. It would be difficult to miss, anyway; she’s Korean-American and was raised by white parents in a lily-white Oregon town. Although Chung faced challenges as the only Asian person in her community, she was raised in a loving family who taught her that her birth parents made the difficult decision to give her up so she could have a better life.
“Everything I knew of my life began on the day I was adopted. It was as if I had simply sprung into being as the five-pound, chubby-cheeked two-month-old my parents picked up at the hospital,” she writes.
But as Chung entered adulthood, her curiosity about her birth family grew. She wanted to provide her future children with an understanding and history she lacked, so she set out to find her birth parents.
And the tale she’d been taught about her adoption quickly unraveled.
It is true that Chung was born severely premature to Korean parents, and her medical complications did create a challenge. But the details of her adoption weren’t nearly as straightforward—or as rosy—as her parents portrayed them.
Chung’s exploration of identity and adoption becomes even more complicated when her initial contact with her birth family coincides with her first pregnancy. As a result, her ideas of family begin to be reshaped by multiple forces.
As she wrestles with her identity as an adopted child and as the sole person of color in most of her childhood circles, Chung confronts universal questions: Who am I? How does that shape how I interact with the world? Chung’s origin story is messier than she’d hoped, but All You Can Ever Know is a tale told with empathy and grace.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Nicole Chung.