All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
"Chung’s memoir is more than a thoughtful consideration of race and heritage in America. It is the story of sisters finding each other, overcoming bureaucracy, abuse, separation, and time." —The New Yorker
"All You Can Ever Know is full of insights on race, motherhood, and family of all kinds, but what sets it apart is the compassion Chung brings to every facet of her search for identity and every person portrayed in these pages. This book should be required reading for anyone who has ever had, wanted, or found a family—which is to say, everyone.” —Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
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 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 hope of giving her a better life, that forever feeling slightly out of place was her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as Nicole grew up—facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and as 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, Nicole 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nicole Chung has written for The New York Times, GQ, Longreads, BuzzFeed, Hazlitt, and Shondaland, among other publications. She is the editor in chief of Catapult magazine and the former managing editor of The Toast. All You Can Ever Know is her first book.
"A stunning memoir…. Chung’s writing is vibrant and provocative as she explores her complicated feelings about her transracial adoption…and the importance of knowing where one comes from.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Chung’s search for her biological roots…has to be one of this year’s finest books, let alone memoirs…. Chung has literary chops to spare and they’re on full display in descriptions of her need, pain and bravery.” —The Washington Post, 1 of the Year’s 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction
“Nicole Chung delved into her own cross-cultural adoption to unpack our collective strengths and weaknesses when it comes to responding to our differences…. Opening readers’ eyes to the complexities of cross-cultural adoption, Chung makes a resounding case for empathy.” —TIME Magazine, 1 of the 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year
“All You Can Ever Know is partially about Chung’s search as an adult for her birth family, and who she found. But it’s also a thoughtful look at transracial adoption and a meditation on identity and culture…. Her memoir is a sometimes heartbreaking, always unflinching look at what it means to feel rootless.” —NPR, a Best Book of the Year
“The honesty with which Chung grapples with this kind of racial erasure is a hallmark of her stunning debut memoir, a book that confronts enormous pain with precision, clarity, and grace…. [I]n addition to being deeply thoughtful and moving, the book is a fiercely compelling page-turner…. But what shines through this beautiful book is her clear-eyed compassion for all her relations, her powerful desire for connection, her bold pursuit of her own identity, and the sheer creative energy it took to build her own family tree, to ‘discover and tell another kind of story.'” —The Boston Globe
“In her memoir, All You Can Ever Know, Chung writes with an empathy that is careful to consider the perspectives of everyone involved in her adoption story: herself, her adoptive parents and her birth family…. Though Chung has been complicating most traditional, prepackaged adoption narratives throughout the book, it’s when she is faced with the differences in her own story that the lesson reveals itself to the reader — who begins to see just how varied adoption stories can be…. Though the story is intensely personal, it’s never myopic and, ultimately, it’s universal: a story about learning to grapple with our own identities, about learning where we belong, and about families.” —NPR Books
“The memoir All You Can Ever Know is written with all the style and narrative of great fiction, so it’s no surprise that acclaimed novelists Celeste Ng and Alexander Chee have sung its praises. The debut…traces the author’s life from being put up for adoption by her Korean parents when she was born prematurely in a Seattle hospital, to being raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. Chung describes a childhood of constantly being the only nonwhite child in the room, of never seeing people who looked like her, and of facing prejudice because of it. As these and other layers of the seemingly uncomplicated adoption come to light, Chung highlights the difficulties not only of her unique situation, but of adoptees in general.” —Vanity Fair
“Highly compelling for its depiction of a woman’s struggle to make peace with herself and her identity, the book offers a poignant depiction of the irreducibly complex nature of human motives and family ties. A profound, searching memoir about ‘finding the courage to question what I’d always been told.’” —Kirkus
“With clarity, grace, and no small amount of courage, Chung has written a powerful memoir about her experience as an adoptee, an Asian-American, a daughter, a sister, and a mother. All You Can Ever Know is a candid and beautiful exploration of themes of identity, family, racism, and love. And while the answers Chung finds in her search for the birth family she never knew are fascinating, the power of this book lies in Chung’s willingness to ‘question the things [she’d] always been told,’ even while knowing that she might find unsettling truths and an origin story unlike what she’d always thought had existed. Though this book is specific to Chung’s experience and an important example of the complexities inherent to transracial adoption, its words will resonate deep within the core of anyone who has ever questioned their place in their family, their community, and the world.” —NYLON
“Following a season of (wonderful) books about motherhood, Nicole Chung’s memoir stands out for its broadening of the discussion, exploring the complicated consequences of interracial adoption…. All You Can Ever Know is the messy navigation of Chung’s new reality — her working out the boundaries of these people who are both kin and strangers…and her exploration of the profound, ever-shifting meaning of family.” —BuzzFeed
“[An] insightful memoir…. Chung’s clear, direct approach to her experience, which includes the birth of her daughter as well as her investigation of her family, reveals her sharp intelligence and willingness to examine difficult emotions.” —Booklist
“She’s one of my favorite essayists of all time, the kind who expands my mind with every sentence and makes me reconsider everything.” —Gary Shteyngart, for Vulture
Dancetheatre David Earle