In the opening epigraph of All You Ever Know, author Nicole Chung quotes C.S. Lewis’s The Four Leaves, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” This was my very thought when I first saw Nicole’s book in front of me.
Before reading the first page of All You Can Ever Know, the book was already hitting a nerve deep inside of me. The memoir of Chung’s life as an adoptee who discovers the painful history of her family was similar to the reality I had just lived myself only months before.
Like Nicole, I am a Korean-American adoptee, and in the summer of 2017, I was reunited with my birth-mother after 27 years apart. It was Christmastime in 2014 when I was first contacted by a Korean adoption agency and then later received my first email from my birth-mother. After many translated messages back and forth with each other over the course of two years, my adopted family and I flew to Korea to meet members of my birth family in 2017. With a language barrier and 5,000 miles of ocean between us, my reunification with my birth family has been a slow-moving journey. It’s a journey that few make, which is what was so special about reading Nicole Chung’s story of discovering her birth family.
Just months after returning home from meeting my birth family, the publishers at Catapult Press sent me an advance copy of Nicole’s book with no knowledge of me also being a Korean-American adoptee who had reunited with family. As Chung quotes herself in the book, “We adoptees have a way of finding one another.”
Reading her book was a deeply emotional experience. I was planning my day around reading, making sure I was reading it only while in total isolation. It was the most personal reading experience I’ve had. It forced me to think about my own adoption and recent experience with birth family in a way I hadn’t previously. I’ve read other personal accounts about adoption before but the realness in Nicole’s experience felt truer than anything I’ve come across.
Author and Korean-American adoptee Matthew Salesses, reviewed Nicole’s book saying, “Chung has written a book for everyone, but the real gift is for adoptees. This is a book not to miss and an adoption story we need,” and I couldn’t agree more.
I have been fortunate to meet Nicole on a couple of occasions and on Monday November 4 th I will be in-conversation with her to further discuss All You Can Ever Know. As she writes in the book, “It’s always a welcome relief to find myself in the company of other adopted people, because only we can understand what it means to grow up adopted. To navigate our adoptive families, and our birth families, too, if we are privileged to know them, and build an identity from what has been lost and found.”