Many will know Nicole Chung’s writing from Buzzfeed, Hazlitt and The Toast. All You Can Ever Know is her first book, and it’s a beautiful memoir that explores the extraordinary registers of everyday life.
Born in 1981 to a Korean family in Seattle, Chung was adopted weeks later into a white family who made a life in rural Oregon. Chung was fiercely loved by her family, who felt it was their calling to have her in their lives. But, the town where they lived was overwhelmingly white; Chung encountered both subtle and forthright racism growing up, which her white family was ill-equipped to help navigate. And, as Chung grew up, she found the simplified narrative of adoption told by her family, and expected by others who asked, didn’t match the nuances of her own experience.
As Chung’s own pregnancy progresses, she feels compelled to find out more about her birth family. Where before she felt alienated by the lack of nuance with which others understood her experience as a Korean adoptee into a white family, she suddenly finds herself working to understand the dynamics driving her birth family’s own decisions. She parses this as she confronts new motherhood, attempting to understand the choice of adoption while holding an infant from whom she cannot fathom separation.
Written with clarity, empathy and passion, All You Can Ever Know tells a story many people live each day in a way most of us have never heard before. It’s highly recommended to any fans of motherhood or adoption memoirs.