All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir (Nicole Chung)

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  • The Stats: 240 Pages, published March 2018 
  • Who Should Read It: Teachers, school administrators, educational program designers
  • My Rating (out of 5 ♥): ♥♥♥.5
  • My Thoughts: This book was recommended by my library (the Vancouver Public Library), and I admittedly did not expect to be so moved by the Nicole Chung’s story. Chung shares a raw, honest account of her upbringing as a child adopted from South Korea by a family in the Pacific Northwest. She shares candidly about how not knowing her parents or culture; balancing gratitude and connection with her adoptive family with an ever-present sense of wonder and longing of her birth family; stumbling through the institutional racism in the overwhelmingly white community in rural Oregon (“where are YOU from?”); all the while navigating the expected trials of childhood. Chung begins the book by sharing a recent conversation of a well-intentioned friend, herself looking to adopt, and Chung finding herself not able to answer in the simplistic,”Yeah, all adoption is great!”

Chung’s story weaves through difficult realities of meeting and knowing her birth family, while navigating this with her partner and her adoptive parents. While it is anything but cookie-cutter, it’s also surprisingly relateable in how Chung’s story of disappointment, pain, curiosity, and ultimately, love and connection.

Why should educators read this?

I was surprised at how little I realized I knew about adoption, as well as the hidden assumptions I didn’t even realize I was holding onto. Chung has a relatable voice, yet doesn’t sugar-coat anything about her story, and shares insight and truths that tugged at my heart. The trials Chung faced from anyone from her teachers and classmates to hairstylists highlighted to me that adopted children are nearly always reminded they are adopted, which while I’m sure comes with some highlights, also clearly comes with stigmitized, complicating, confusing, and even traumatizing feelings. To understand this as even just one person in a child’s life can be there to listen, undertand, and love.

Thank you, Nicole, for sharing your story.

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