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All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir

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9781948226370: All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Long-listed for PEN Open Book Award
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Time, The Boston Globe, Real Simple, Buzzfeed, Jezebel, Bustle, Library Journal, Chicago Public Library, and more

"This book moved me to my very core. . . . [All You Can Ever Know] 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.

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About the Author:

Nicole Chung's memoir, All You Can Ever Know, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, long-listed for the PEN Open Book Award, and named a Best Book of the Year by nearly two dozen outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, NPR, Time, Newsday, and Library Journal. Chung has written for The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, GQ, The Atlantic, New York magazine, Longreads, and Hazlitt, among many other publications. She is the editor in chief of Catapult magazine and the former managing editor of The Toast.

Review:

Praise for All You Can Ever Know

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography
Long-listed for the PEN Open Book Award
Finalist for the ABA Indies Choice Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year Award
A Finalist for the 2019 NAIBA Book of the Year in Nonfiction
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Time, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Review of Books, Real Simple, Buzzfeed, Jezebel, Bustle, Entropy, PureWow, Brit + Co, Chicago Public Library, Electric Literature, Paste, Women.com, and more
Forbes, The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Women in Power
A Barnes & Noble Discover Selection, A Junior Library Guild Selection, and an American Booksellers Association Indie Next Pick

"[A] deeply moving and profound account of [Chung's] life as a Korean American adoptee, as she grows up and strives to understand her identity . . . All You Can Ever Know honors the grand complexity of love, family, and identity, while showing us how these things can save us and break us with devastating clarity and beauty." ―Today

"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

"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

"Warm, candid, and full of insights on race, heritage, family and motherhood." ―Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, NBC News

"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." ―Samantha Balaban, NPR

"In her memoir, All You Can Ever Know, Chung writes with an empathy that's careful to consider the perspectives of everyone involved in her adoption story: herself, her adoptive parents and her birth family . . . 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 book is an extraordinary, honest, nuanced and compassionate look at adoption, race in America and families in general. It's also such an engaging read. I stayed up way too late one night reading it because the story just pulled me in. I read it months ago, and I still think about it and quote some of the lines in this book at least weekly." ―Jasmine Guillory, Code Switch, NPR

"Her reflections on identity and culture explore the need to belong." ―Time

"Opening readers’ eyes to the complexities of cross-cultural adoption, Chung makes a resounding case for empathy." ―Time

"Written with all the style and narrative of great fiction." ―Vanity Fair

"In this gorgeous memoir, Chung examines our ties to family and what it means to belong." ―Real Simple

"The author . . . revisits her coming of age with a deep melancholy, favoring clarity over sentimentality. She writes crisply, intimately, bringing us close to her experiences of pain, isolation, and discovery . . . Passages like this give All You Can Ever Know real texture, the sensations practically flowing from the page. And Chung emotionally relays her journey to becoming a writer―her path of negotiating and asserting her identity―and to learning about her birth family’s rather traumatic past. Yet her empathetic, graceful prose shines brightest when she casts her gaze elsewhere: on her adoptive parents―their warmth and their secrets, their struggle to talk about race―or on her birth sister, Cindy, who opens Chung’s eyes in adulthood, while similarly trying to find herself. Through them, Chung reveals a family story of heartbreaking truth―personal in its detail, universal in its complexity." ―Entertainment Weekly

"The former Toast editor beautifully tells her life story, from growing up with adoptive white parents to uncovering the truth of where she came from." ―Entertainment Weekly

"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, her careful confrontation and reconciliation with her parents, and her exploration of the profound, ever-shifting meaning of family." ―BuzzFeed

"If you’re looking for a memoir that can pull you in on the first page, and leave you thinking for months afterwards, it’s this book. It’s written by a woman who was an adoptee, and decided when she was pregnant with her first child to see if she could find out more about her birth family. There is so much in this book that moved me, but the friendship between the author and her sister, who she meets as an adult, makes me tear up to just think about." ―Jasmine Guillory, Hello Sunshine

"Nicole is an incredibly talented writer and All You Can Ever Know brims with her insight and thoughtful prose." ―Stassa Edwards, Jezebel

“There is one memoir that I am very excited about by a woman named Nicole Chung, called All You Can Ever Know, which is a memoir about a Korean woman adopted by white parents. She then grew up in Oregon surrounded only by white people, and she kept a list of Asian people she saw, and it would be years before she saw a new person she hadn’t seen before. It’s a really interesting story about her search for her biological parents while she is pregnant with her own first child. That one is going to be just fabulous.” ―Emma Straub, All of It, WNYC

"[Nicole Chung] explores her experience as the only Asian person in an Oregon town nestled 'in a valley in sight of three mountain ranges' with an open heart and clear-eyed grace . . . Her quest is gripping . . . All You Can Ever Know is a book about true love―and therefore laced with pain as well as joy." ―Jenny Shank, The Dallas Morning News

"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

"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, Vulture

"This book is sure to lead to important conversations about adoption, race, and the meaning of family." ―Kerri Jarema, Bustle

"Considering that Chung is an editor at Catapult and formerly The Toast (RIP), it’s not surprising that she makes storytelling feel less like a skill and more like a magic power." ―Jessica Blankenship, InStyle

"[A] stirring new memoir . . . Chung’s book is, at heart, a love story between sisters, and a hopeful witness to the ways people with multiple ambiguous losses can help each other heal." ―International Examiner

"A fascinating, heartwarming and heartbreaking story of ancestry, family and racial identity in America." ―Chicago Public Library

"Chung investigates the mysteries and complexities of her transracial adoption in this chronicle of unexpected family for anyone who has struggled to figure out where they belong." ―The Seattle Public Library

"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 . . . In 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

"A Korean American adopted by white parents in Oregon, Chung writes movingly of her search to find her birth parents; her personal quest leads not only to her own story, but also to meditations on race, parenthood, and the construction of identity." ―The Boston Globe

"Beyond its critical and popular success, All You Can Ever Know is a landmark in the literature of adoption, and will be of enduring value to people looking for advice about raising a child of a different race. In fact, it opens with a story about one such couple who came to Nicole with their questions back when she was just out of college, years before she began her search for her family. Did she ever feel like her adoptive parents weren't her real parents? they asked. Had she had any issues growing up? . . . The whole answer, in all its unsentimental, unshrinking complexity, is found in this courageous book." ―Marion Winik, Critical Mass: The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors

"A sensitive, clear-eyed examination of the bullying and casual racism that had marked her childhood and, eventually, leads to a search for her birth parents and the origin story she has never known." ―Newsday

"A tender, unsentimental memoir . . . All You Can Ever Know has the patient pacing of a mystery and the philosophical heft of a skeptic’s undertaking." ―Newsday

"In this much-anticipated memoir, Chung brings her clear and thoughtful prose to the task of untangling the legacy of her adoption to white parents in Oregon. Transracial adoption, often framed as a simple act of altruistic love on the part of white parents, looks far more complicated under Chung’s kind but implacably honest gaze." ―HuffPost

“[Chung] has written, hauntingly, about her adoption and growing up in a white family. . . . Her long-awaited memoir promises to explore the subject more fully: her relationship with her adoptive family, her reconnection with her birth family, beginning her own family and how she’s worked to find a sense of belonging.” ―Huffington Post

"What gives All You Can Ever Know its power is the emotional honesty in every line, essential to the telling of a story so personal . . . All You Can Ever Know, sometimes painfully and always beautifully, explores what it means to be adopted, to be a different race from the family you grew up in, and to later create a family of your own." ―The Seattle Times

"Chung’s beautifully written memoir about adoption, parenthood, race and identity has aching honesty in every line . . . You read these pages awed by Chung’s ability to combine clear-eyed unsentimentality with faith and optimism, and to create a family not from her dreams, but from her reality. She has, by its end, built an identity 'from what has been lost and found.'" ―The Seattle Times

"Chung’s dynamic prose tackles identity and the forces that shape it . . . What Chung painstakingly unearths about her birth family is thrilling and unsettling, and her articulation of her findings averts tropish feel-good stereotypes. Here, the open wound at the heart of this exquisite narrative heals slightly skewed, exactly as it should." ―Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"Chung’s book is as poignant as it is enlightening . . . This powerful book does emphasize that finding the truth and living with it, while difficult, is honest, real―and that is all you can ever know." ―Kristi Burns, The Spokesman-Review

"Chung, born to Korean parents and adopted at birth by a white family, explores not just her own history but also the larger notion of having a history at all. She invites the reader to join her on the intimate and sometimes heartbreaking journey of discovering―and rediscovering―her identity as a person and a writer. Particularly affecting is the story of Chung's relationship with her own daughter, born, poetically, as Chung commits to searching for her birth family." ―Pacific Standard

"A beautifully written book that addresses problems of race and family, drawing the reader in an emotional roller coaster that leaves them wanting to know more." ―The Harvard Crimson

Touching on race, family, and the failure of simple labels to define us, Chung instead offers a masterful narrative that proves concepts like culture and origin are simply insufficient in elucidating who we truly are. As conversations about what community truly means continue to remain acutely topical―who we belong to, what aspects of our character we define ourselves by, what we each require to feel whole―the timing of Chung’s memoir could not be better. In the gifted hands of an immensely talented writer, the story of All You Can Ever Know ultimately becomes more than Chung’s personal journey, instead serving as an eye-opening conduit to the universal desire we all share to love and be loved in return." ―SF Weekly

"In her glistening debut, All You Can Ever Know, Nicole Chung delves into the knotty question of how to define what family means . . . What she learns upends the tidy story she grew up hearing about her adoption, but Chung, a truth-seeker, does not shy away from the messier reality she finds. All You Can Ever Know holds special resonance for fellow adoptees, especially those navigating transracial adoptions. Yet Chung achieves the goal of many memoirists: She renders the specifics of her story so precisely that it becomes universal." ―Portland Mercury

"As unique, affecting, heartstring-pulling as this debut is, Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know will resonate with any sensitive, thoughtful reader who has '[found] the courage to question what [they’ve] been told'―ab...

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