All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir

Nicole Chung (Author)

Product Details

$26.00  $23.92
Publish Date
October 02, 2018
6.2 X 1.0 X 9.1 inches | 1.05 pounds

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About the Author

Nicole Chung is the author of the nationally bestselling memoir All You Can Ever Know. Named a Best Book of the Year by two dozen publications, All You Can Ever Know was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a semifinalist for the PEN Open Book Award, an Indies Choice Honor Book, and an official Junior Library Guild Adult Crossover Selection.

Chung's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, GQ, TIME, Longreads, and Vulture, among others, and she also writes a weekly Care and Feeding advice column for Slate. She is the editor-in-chief of the National Magazine Award-winning Catapult magazine and the former managing editor of The Toast.


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,, 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'--about family, history, their very selves . . . Raw, open, forthright, Chung's personal odyssey is an intimate journey toward self-understanding and acceptance." --The Christian Science Monitor

"Brimming with secrets sure to keep you captivated, Nicole Chung's memoir delivers a powerful, honest saga exploring the meaning of family." --Frannie Jackson, Paste

"A warm and honest reflection on the author's search for the birth parents who gave her up for adoption." --Laura Sirikul, Mental Floss, 1 of 25 Amazing Books by Asian American and Pacific Islander Authors You Need to Read

"This memoir documents the heartbreaking, profound, joyful journey that ensues." --Refinery29

"All You Can Ever Know is a gorgeously written memoir of culture, identity, and belonging. It's an absolute must-read this fall." --HelloGiggles

"Riveting and painfully real. It's a story of lost generations and found families, infinitely relatable whether you're adopted or not." --Bon AppΓ©tit

"This inspiring memoir tells the story of a girl who never gives up and finds happiness in discovering where she comes from and who she really is." --PopSugar

"In All You Can Ever Know, Chung asks resonant questions about race, identity, family, adoption, and how we shape our very sense of self in clear-eyed, riveting prose. This immensely moving memoir will leave you changed."--PopSugar

"Chung's story shares what she learned and explores identity, belonging, family, and truth." --Bustle

"In her memoir, All You Can Ever Know, Nicole Chung takes the qualities that make her writing sing--warmth, inquisitiveness, and deep personal investment in the words she types--and turns them inward. Her debut is an investigation into her past in which she aims to leave no stone--or emotion--unturned." --Shondaland

"It's a true testament of the power of telling the personal stories of history--while fictional, it situates the reader in time . . . A powerful debut." --Emily Burack, Alma

"All You Can Ever Know chronicles that search, delivering a powerful saga about identity with revelations to keep you captivated from cover to cover." --Frannie Jackson, Paste, 1 of the 25 Best Memoirs of the Decade

"Chung's memoir provides insight into life as a transracial adoptee, an experience that is not often talked about. Chung tells an important story, exploring notions of identity and race and the complicated nature of both . . . Chung's memoir is deeply emotional from the very start. Her search for family and belonging raises important questions about identity and what constitutes family . . . Chung's memoir sheds light on the complexities of family and the search for identity. She illuminates the difficulties of being a transracial adoptee and feeling out of place in the only family you know. Chung's memoir is an important one for a number of reasons, but more than anything, her writing is poignant and emotionally compelling throughout." --The Brooklyn Rail

"This is a moving memoir that talks about Chung feeling out of place in certain situations as she lacked representation in her life, some of the harsher realities of adoption, and the journey to finding her birth family once she was expecting a child of her own. This is a story that all of us, whether we're directly affected by the adoption triad or not, need to know . . . A beautifully written memoir that you won't soon forget. The story will stay with you for some time, and if you're anything like me, it will challenge the idea of what family is supposed to be." --Julia K. Porter,

"I can't say enough amazing things about this book or Chung herself . . . This book is a critical must-read for parents who have adopted children outside of their own race as this is eye-opening to how this feels to a child and educates us how to do better. I also have suggested this to several adult adoptees who have been searching for their birth families or who are contemplating that journey because this book honestly explains those feelings, roadblocks, and self-discovery along the way." --Julia K. Porter,, 1 of 9 Books About Adoption for All Ages to Read This Summer

"A must-read . . . All You Can Ever Know is an incredible, humanist look at adoption, and an exploration of the scars Chung has from the subtler, unlabeled racism she experienced growing up in a homogenous plot of America, far from other Asian Americans . . . But adoption or not, the book should be required reading for anyone contemplating parenthood." --Romper

"While grappling with her identity Chung exposes the truths we all endure when we try to figure out where we truly belong."

"Nicole Chung's memoir is an honest depiction of how hard it is to understand where we come from and what we seek to fit in."

"If you're an Asian American adoptee, just stop reading this right now and go get this book. I am keeping it and giving it to everyone in my family, my parents, my partner, everyone. This is the book that makes me feel seen . . . This book is tender. I treasure it." --Utopia State of Mind

"Moving, beautifully wrought." --The Margins

"Moving and intimate, All You Can Ever Know is a candid exploration of motherhood, race and the lengths we all go to to feel like we belong." --PureWow

"Beautifully written . . . It's these universal themes of family, belonging and identity that make All You Can Ever Know such a compelling read." --Hazlitt

"Chung's memoir is full of nuance . . . Through her story, Chung shows that adoption--particularly trans-racial adoption--doesn't fit into a trite, simple narrative. And the lyricism of her language makes that story a pleasure to read." --BUST

"An insightful memoir." --The National Book Review

"In her debut memoir All You Can Ever Know, Nicole Chung challenges the traditional adoption narrative and sheds light on the complicated reality of being a transracial adoptee . . . All You Can Ever Know is yet another reminder of how important representation is, both as an exercise in empathy across cultural boundaries and as catharsis for those who have had undergone similar experiences." --Chicago Review of Books

"At the top of my pile is: Nicole Chung's memoir, All You Can Ever Know (Catapult), the story of a Korean American adoptee's relationship with her white, adoptive family in Oregon and her search for her birth family." --Karen Maeda Allman (Elliott Bay Book Company), The Seattle Review of Books

"I read this book in big gulps, thirsty for more each time I had to set it down. Nicole was adopted at birth, and she tells the story of her childhood and later, her search for her birth family, in gorgeous and precise prose. Nicole honors her own experiences while also opening up, again and again, doors to universal truths. Truly, it is one of the most thoughtful and important memoirs I've ever read . . . All You Can Ever Know is a book that changed me, and that will stay with me. Nicole's writing on motherhood, intergenerational trauma, and race is nothing short of brilliant." --The Rumpus

"Thoughtful, conscientious, compassionate . . . Chung, as protagonist and writer, is inspiring in her grace. Her story--as she tells it--is also funny in places, though subtly so. It's also, as the title suggests, a reflection on the power of knowledge and learning, with their capacity to comfort and prepare one for what comes next, as well as the limits of knowledge, its ability to discomfit, and the idea that there are some things even the most curious person may not want to know." --Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"You might know Nicole Chung from her work as an editor at Catapult and, before that, The Toast; you might know her from acclaimed works of nonfiction that have appeared in numerous impressive publications. Now she's making her book-length debut with her memoir All You Can Ever Know, which explores questions of adoption, parenthood, race, and finding one's own voice as a writer." --Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"It's beautiful; it's a really beautiful book. I would recommend it as well. It comes out in October. . . . That's going to do well. It's exciting; it's really beautifully done." --Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan of Go Fug Yourself on Women with Books

"Have you read this book yet? It's a memoir about Chung's adoption, powerful and generous and wise, and it will crack your heart open." --R. O. Kwon, Electric Literature, 1 of 5 Books by Women You Should Read

"Compassionate and astute, [Chung's] writing has much to tell us about race, America, belonging, and adoption." --Electric Literature

"A deeply engrossing memoir about adoption and motherhood and the meaning of family." --Vanessa Hua, Electric Literature

"Nicole Chung's first memoir is a soulful and searching account of identity, both as constructed by ourselves over time and as taught by those who reared us . . . Chung's story cuts to the heart of the complicated ways we love, let go, and find one another." --Read It Forward

"Nicole Chung's All You Can Ever Know is this awesome memoir about her life as an adoptee. She's a brilliant essayist who I'm a little obsessed with. Her memoir got a Junior Library Guild badge, and has crossover potential--I don't know what the exact term is, but I know it's being pushed toward young adults, and I'm very excited about it. I hope a YA audience picks it up, because it's such a powerful story . . . Something for our listeners to keep an eye out for." --Hey YA

"When Nicole Chung decided to search out her birth parents, she didn't know what she'd find, or whose lives she might upend. She writes about the experience beautifully and with such compassion--turning this very personal story into something more than just a memoir: a deeply resonant and poignant exploration of what it means to be a family." --Musing (Parnassus Books)

"...[A] compelling life story..."--Colorlines

"An important memoir about Chung's search for the couple that gave her up years and years ago and her journey to self-acceptance." --BookBub

"You probably know Chung from the internet, where she is the editor-in-chief of Catapult magazine, but soon you will certainly know her from this memoir, in which she recounts her early life as the child of white parents in a small Oregon town, her search for her Korean birthparents, and the truth about why they put her up for adoption in the first place." --Literary Hub

"[Chung's] memoir, All You Can Ever Know (Catapult, coming in October), is an eye-opening account of what it's like to grow up without access to your biological family. Chung maintains a wholehearted compassion for both her biological and adoptive families' toughest choices--and shares what it means to grow up in the space between them." --MUSE-FEED, Kenyon Review's Summer Reading List

"Personal and expansive, intimate and wise, Nicole Chung's memoir is a fiercely successful balancing act of family, identity, becoming and love . . . Chung writes with warmth and earnestness, exploring deftly the complicated questions that tangle the story of her life. She always maintains care and compassion for every character: her birth parents, her adoptive parents, and the woman she would come to know as her sister. No one is idealized, or burdened with the full brunt of her hopes, her grief and her longing . . . Compassion-fille