An essayist and editor’s account of her search for and reconnection with the parents who gave her up for adoption.
Chung, the editor-in-chief of Catapult magazine, had always been obsessed with the Korean birthparents she had never met. Her adoptive mother and father told her a story that emphasized the birthparents’ loving selflessness and how “[t]hey thought adoption was the best thing for me.” But the “legend” they created was not enough to sate Chung’s curiosity about the past or ease her occasional discomfort at being the Korean child of white parents in a largely Caucasian Oregon community. A year after she graduated from college, Chung discovered a way to work around the legalities of what had been a closed adoption to find out more about her birthparents. However, it was not until she became pregnant a few years later that she decided to make contact. Eager to know why she had been given up for adoption but troubled that she was betraying the trust of her adoptive parents, the author quietly moved forward with her quest. Much of what she learned—e.g., that she had been born premature and had two sisters—she already knew. Other details, like the fact that her parents had told everyone she had died at birth, raised a host of new questions. Just before Chung gave birth, her sister Cindy made contact. She revealed that their mother had been abusive and that their father had been the one who had decided on adoption. Fear of becoming like her birth mother and anger at both parents gradually gave way to the mature realization that her adoption “was not a tragedy” but rather “the easiest way to solve just one of too many problems.” Highly compelling for its depiction of a woman’s struggle to make peace with herself and her identity, the book offers a poignant depiction of the irreducibly complex nature of human motives and family ties.
A profound, searching memoir about “finding the courage to question what I’d always been told.”