Luminously written, sensitively nuanced memoir by Idaho-based journalist Robinson about the rediscovery of her Korean family.
Adopted as a seven-year old by Americans, the author loved her new mother, but growing up in Utah, the only Asian in her school, she felt cut off from her roots. Mixing memories of her American childhood with accounts of her present activities, Robinson describes how, on a business trip to Seoul 20 years after she left, she decided to look for her birth family. She had a photograph of her mother and grandmother taken at the airport before she left, a few memories, and little else to guide her. At the orphanage that arranged her adoption, she learned that her father was still alive, though now in his 70s. They met briefly; he shared photos and memories and told her she was his favorite child. Pleased by his response, Robinson arranged to spend a year at Korea University with her husband. Her father was very protective of the couple, but his daughter’s feelings fluctuated as she learned more about him. He was a notorious womanizer; Kim Ji-yun (Robinson’s Korean name) was the result of an affair with her mother while he was married with young children; and he had more children with the woman he married after that affair. Robinson met an elder half-brother and -sister, offspring of his first marriage, and his first wife made the American feel at home though she disliked her ex-husband. Learning the truth about her mother was difficult; family members told different stories, so Robinson didn’t know whether she was dead or married and living in Chicago. Though she had hoped solving the mystery of her family would be easier, the author leaves comforted by the connections she’s made and accepting of her mother’s decision to have her adopted.
Robinson vividly describes contrasts between cultures as she realistically details a quest inevitably complicated by the contradictions and contrariness of human nature.