Book Review: ‘All You Can Ever Know’

A Memoir by Nicole Chung

Julia K. Porter February 12, 2019
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Nicole Chung was born prematurely. Her birth parents chose an adoption plan. Growing up a Korean raised by white parents in Oregon, Chung explains the intricacies of growing up in a transracial family as well as the feelings she had growing up and eventually when she began the search for her birth family.

My daughter is black, and my husband and I are white. I’m constantly learning by listening to and reading about the real-life experiences of adult adoptees so that I can do better and be better. When I heard about Chung’s new memoir, All You Can Ever Know, it was in my Amazon cart instantly, and I devoured it in just two nights.

This is a moving book that talks about Chung feeling out of place in certain situations as she lacked representation in her life, some of the harsher realities of adoption, and the journey to finding her birth family once she was expecting a child of her own.

This is a story that all of us, whether we’re directly affected by the adoption triad or not, need to know. It details the difficulties of not fitting in, what hiding information can do to a family, and the reality of needing to know where you came from.

Cultural representation has been important to me and was, in fact, a part of the education we received when going through the adoption process. However, when Chung was adopted in the 1980s, this wasn’t the case. She says, “at home, I kept a secret running tally of every single Asian person I had ever seen in public.” This is just one of the heartbreaking facts that allows a reader like me to take a step back and understand how important it truly is that an adopted child’s culture is reflected regularly.

Reading Chung’s reflection on navigating the difficult process of finding her birth family, building a relationship with her sister, Cindy, and maneuvering through her story and experiences is amazing.

This is a beautifully written memoir that you won’t soon forget. The book will stay with you for some time, and if you’re anything like me, it will challenge the idea of what family is supposed to be and that adoption reform is still necessary in today’s society.

Your first step in your search and reunion journey is to register in Adoption.com’s Reunion Registry.

*Photo credit: The New Yorker

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Julia K. Porter

Julia K. Porter is an educator, writer, and cultural competency consultant. She began her career as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, NY, and has taught college courses since 2008 and has done nonprofit work. Currently, she is the project manager for Celebrating Cultural uniqueness at Tiffin University. Julia has a passion for diversity and in educating about the nuances of adoption as that is how she chose to grow her family. Julia holds a Ph.D. in Global Leadership from Indiana Tech, an MA in English Literature from Brooklyn College, and a BS in English Education from Indiana University/Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). Her personal interests include reading, writing, traveling and experiencing new cultures, and knitting. She lives in Indiana with her husband, Kyle, daughter, Brooklyn, and Australian Shepherd, Hunter. For more information, visit www.juliakayporter.com.


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