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All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir

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4.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,677 ratings  ·  450 reviews
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 early childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biolo
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Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Catapult
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Celeste Ng
This book moved me to my very core. As all her writing, Nicole Chung speaks eloquently and honestly about her own personal story, then widens her aperture to illuminate all of us. 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-- ...more
Jessica Woodbury
When I started thinking about how I was going to describe this book, the words that came to mind were the kind of words you'd read on a bottle of water: pure, clear, undiluted. Every time I read it it was like turning on a faucet of raw emotion, a view into the author's experience that was like looking through freshly-cleaned glass. Forgive me if I'm getting pulled into mixed metaphors, but when I tried to explain it these were the kinds of images that came to me over and over again. I would sit ...more
R.O. Kwon
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An urgent, incandescent exploration of what it can mean to love, and of who gets to belong, in an increasingly divided country. Nicole Chung's powerful All You Can Ever Know is necessary reading, a dazzling light to help lead the way during these times.
Jessica
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely adored of Nicole Chung's account of her transracial adoption, which has been popping up on many best-of lists this month. It's legitimately one of the best memoirs I've ever read, and I wrote a master's thesis on memoirs. This book tells a fascinating tale and it does so with beautiful writing. It's hard to imagine anyone who wouldn't enjoy reading it.

So here's the thing: I'm not adopted. I'm white, my parents are white, my husband is white. We're not, and have no plans to become,
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Rebecca
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Nicole Chung was born premature to Korean shopkeepers who already had two daughters. This was 1981 Seattle, and her parents felt unequal to the challenge of raising a child who might have disabilities. They offered their baby up for adoption, and she was raised by white parents in Portland, Oregon. The whole time she was growing up, Chung felt like the only Asian around, and she experienced childhood bullying. Only when she visited the Seattle Chinatown with her adoptive mother did she feel like ...more
Monica Kim
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
**this review ended up being way too longer than I’d like to, but I had so much to say, so brace yourselves!
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so when people asked me about my family, my features, the fate I’d been dealt, maybe it isn’t surprising how I answered — first in a childish, cheerful chirrup, later in the lecturing tone of one obliged to educate. I arrive to be calm and direct, never giving anything away in my voice, never changing the details. Offering the story I’d learned so early was, I thought, one way to gain a
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nicole Chung shares her story of growing up as a transracial adoptee in a small Oregon town where she was often the only person of color. I heard some of her story on the NPR Code Switch podcast (recommended), but didn't know what happened after she looked into her birth parents. She navigates the questions of adoption, parenthood, family, and identity with nuance.

If you are a person that likes to read similar themes across fiction and memoir, this one ties very directly to the YA novel Far from
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Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)
I'm not usually big on memoirs but when presented with this copy to review, I couldn't say no. A beautifully poignant and emotionally filled memoir of a Korean girl adopted by white parents and facing racism and prejudice no one around her could understand. This journey of her finding her way and wanting to know about her biological family and the story behind it is moving and oh so real.

I felt so much empathy when reading about Nicole's childhood and, while we all know children can be mean, whe
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Lupita Reads
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Five stars five stars! Because I can’t wait to read this!!!!!
Paul
Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoughtful, if discursive, memoir about a Korean-American girl growing up and finding her birth family. It could have been written at about half the length.
Dan Friedman
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know is a beautifully rendered memoir of family construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. Viewed through a wide-angle lens, Chung challenges her readers to ponder the limits of biological determinism and free will. Viewed through a narrow-angle lens, Chung challenges her readers to consider trans-racial adoptions and reunification with biological families. No, not consider trans-racial adoption and reunification from a moral or a values-based perspective, ...more
Vanessa Hua
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Powerful, deeply affecting memoir about love, longing, belonging, and family. An unforgettable debut.
Mike
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I knew this book was going to be great, but I did not expect that it would make me cry quite so quickly. (For the record, the first tears came on page 16.) What an amazingly honest, open, full-hearted story Nicole Chung has given us about adoption, about heritage, about self-understanding, about family, and how families are both made and inherited. I’m just so happy this book exists.
Christina Grace
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Greatest book ever written by one of the greatest living writers
Joy
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
"...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."

I loved this memoir, for its lovely writing, for its moving story, but most of all, because I could nod along in recognition at so much of it, even though Nicole Chung's story differs so much from my own. Those moments of recognition in literature are so rare for transracial adoptees, that when I find them, I breathe deeply and revel in the feel
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Robert Blumenthal
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a timely and well-written memoir that addresses the issues around mixed race adoptions. Nicole Chung, a Korean American, was adopted as a premature baby by a loving and religious couple in Seattle. They moved to Southern Oregon where she was brought up. Throughout her childhood, she was teased at her all white Catholic school, and she was never given the opportunity to explore her birth family's heritage. When she becomes pregnant herself, she decides to search for her birth parents and ...more
Jason Diamond
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think the point of a memoir is to not only tell an interesting story all the way through but to also teach the reader something. Lots of memoirs are filled with pages meant to do just that: fill the pages. Memoirs get a bad rep because people think they can write them, but they can't. The truth is that everybody has an interesting story they can share with the world and that readers will benefit from, but not many can fill up a hundred or two pages with it. Nicole Chung did, and she also wrote ...more
Michele
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The suspense in this memoir makes it compulsively readable; it comes from the question of whether the author will search for her birthparents, and if so, whether she finds them. This plot is further complicated by an unexpected revelation that moves the story forward in a spot where it might otherwise hit a lull. And throughout the book, Chung demonstrates an exceptional emotional intelligence about her own feelings and the feelings of others, including her much-loved adoptive parents. She also ...more
Karen Ng
Moved me to tears so many times. As an Asian that raised three kids in a predominantly white town. I understand a bit of racism and how difficult it was for my children to find their own identitly, but this book, and her prose, are unique. Brutally honest, yet heart breaking at times.A must- read. She writes eloquently and beautifully. I put her memoir at the same par as The Glass Castle and When Breath Becomes Air.
Emily
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
There's a lot of ink spilled in the lit-o-sphere over the courage it takes to tell your personal story, so much that it's a kind of cliche. Too bad! I'm going to say it: This story is brave. ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW is a courageous, beautiful book that deserves all the accolades it's going to get.

If you've encountered Nicole Chung's writing before, then you know what to expect. If you haven't read one of her essays before, you're in for a treat: Clear, elegant, prose. Beautiful but efficient. No w
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Sachi Argabright
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I know I keep saying this about the Asian American debuts I have read this year, but I LOVED this book!! Similar to Julayne Lee’s Not My White Savior, this book taught me so much about Korean adoption and the complex family dynamics in creates. I absolutely loved Nicole’s beautiful writing style, and flew through her story in a matter of days. With a balance of moments that will make you cry and also warm your heart, this book is something you won’t want to pass up!

I also want to say that even i
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Jessica
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a poignant and moving book, told in such a way that you'll end every page and stop to think about the way you view yourself, and others, and consider the way you live your life. Identity is something we all struggle with in one way or another and to read such an insightful story as Nicole Chung's is eye-opening and relatable. It's beautifully written and a story that needs to be heard.
I'm looking forward to writing a full review of this book shortly.
Julie
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Edited:

Consistently bowled over throughout this read by the empathy and grace with which it treated each of these real life people who make up its story. Memoirs rarely nail this with such balance, and I sincerely appreciated it. Brought me to tears twice, both moments when someone was surprised to realize how much they needed something.

Vivid, softly told, poignant, darkly funny in places, so grateful this book exists, an unforgettable read.

Angel
Review to come--but this is an incredible book, and you should definitely pre-order it now.
Lara Blackman
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book - there's so much written about parenthood and family, but I've never read a story like Chung's, and it really did change my perspective. Beautifully written + a quick read!
ak
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m biased but this book is amazing and heartful and I loved reading it.
Simone
I'm not 100% sure what "a tour de force" means, but I feel like that it makes sense for this book. I didn't know much about Nicole Chung's life other than that she's the editor-in-chief of Catapult's online literary magazine and she's an amazing writer. I knew she was Korean, but the rest of her life was a complete mystery.

So going into this novel, I didn't think it would be the story of a young woman trying to find her birth parents. I didn't know Nicole Chung was adopted or the circumstances o
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andy
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It touched my heart.
Christine
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
~review with slight spoilers and my personal experiences~

Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know is a revelation.

I signed up for a trial of Audible, and this book was my very first choice. It took me a little under two days to finish it, which is insane because I’m not exactly good with listening to audiobooks.

Maybe this book is an outlier, because it is riveting.

I’m not an adoptee, but as an adult half-Korean dealing with estranged relations with both parents, I found myself near tears as Nicole s
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Sarah
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
3.5 rounded up

A strong memoir about being adopted and how it feels to meet one's birth family later in life. Chung's discussion of identity and what family means was moving and memorable - if you enjoy memoirs this one is definitely worth checking out.
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Nicole Chung has written for The New York Times, the Times Magazine, GQ, Shondaland, Longreads, Vulture, and Hazlitt, 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. Find her on Twitter at @nicole_soojung.
“To be a hero, I thought, you had to be beautiful and adored. To be beautiful and adored, you had to be white. That there were millions of Asian girls like me out there in the world, starring in their own dramas large and small, had not yet occurred to me, as I had neither lived nor seen it.” 7 likes
“As my thoughts reached out to them, all at once I could envision hundreds of gossamer-thin threads of history and love, curiosity and memory, built up slowly across the time and space between us—a web of connections too delicate to be seen or touched, too strong to be completely severed.” 5 likes
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