Chung, born severely premature and placed for adoption by her Korean parents, was raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From childhood, the story of her adoption was one of giving her a better life. But as she grows up facing racial prejudice, Chung begins to reach for her identity as an Asian American, and with her own first baby due, makes contact with her birth family. Beautifully written and achingly candid, this memoir is a profound meditation on family, parenthood and identity.
By the time she was six, Chung could recite the tale of her selfless birth parents by heart. But something else lurked behind the thought that this ‘may be all you can ever know’. Despite a loving upbringing, being the only Korean in small-town Oregon had its challenges. The racism she experienced as a child was difficult to convey to her white parents, and she kept the playground slurs to herself. The stress of dealing with frequent taunts finally became apparent when Chung’s parents and teachers noticed a ‘tiny bald spot’ — the result of Chung twisting her hair so tightly around her forefinger that she couldn’t free it without ‘yanking a few strands out’.