All You Can Ever Know

All You Can Ever Know : A Memoir

3.96 (6,306 ratings by Goodreads)
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Named a Best Book of Fall by The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, TIME, Elle, and more "This book moved me to my very core. . . . [All You Can Ever Know] should be required reading for anyone who has ever had, wanted, or found a family―which is to say, everyone." ―Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere What does it mean to lose your roots--within your culture, within your family--and what happens when you find them? Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hope of giving her a better life, that forever feeling slightly out of place was her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as Nicole grew up--facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn't see, finding her identity as an Asian American and as a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from--she wondered if the story she'd been told was the whole truth. With warmth, candor, and startling insight, Nicole Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child. All You Can Ever Know is a profound, moving chronicle of surprising connections and the repercussions of unearthing painful family secrets--vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 25.4mm | 476.27g
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • 1936787970
  • 9781936787975
  • 95,386

Review quote

Praise for All You Can Ever Know

A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
An American Booksellers Association Indie Next Pick
An Official Junior Library Guild Selection
An Indies Introduce Pick
Library Journal, Fall Editors' Pick 2018
The Washington Post, 1 of 20 Books to Read This Fall
Elle, 1 of 28 Best Books to Read in Fall
Entertainment Weekly, 1 of 20 Books You Need to Read This Season
The Millions, Most Anticipated in the Second Half of 2018
BuzzFeed Books, One of the Buzziest Audiobooks of the Season
Publishers Weekly, One of the Big Indie Books of Fall 2018
NYLON, 1 of 10 Best New Books to Read in October
One of the Best Books of the Year by Real Simple
The Everygirl, 1 of 10 Highly Anticipated Books to Read This Fall
Book Riot, 1 of 75 Spectacular New Books You Need to Read This Fall
Book Riot, 1 of 10 New October Releases to Put on Hold at the Library Right Now The Rumpus, What to Read When You've Made It Halfway Through 2018
CBC Books, 1 of 15 Works of Nonfiction from Around the World to Watch for This Fall
Bustle, 1 of 11 Most Anticipated Books Published by Indie Presses to Have on Your Radar in 2018
MyDomaine, One of the Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018 That Are Actually Worth Your Time
Fast Company, 1 of 106 New Movies, TV Shows, Albums, and Books You Must Check Out This Month

"Her reflections on identity and culture explore the need to belong." --Time, 1 of 13 New Books Everyone Will Be Talking About This Fall

"[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, 1 of 12 Great New Books to Curl Up with This Fall

"Though the memoir conjures the pain of lost or interrupted relations, its big strength is relatability . . . Chung is a perceptive observer, especially of her own inner life . . .The reader is similarly invited to descry herself in Chung's story--to conceive of herself as a kindred spirit." --The New Yorker

"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

"Written with all the style and narrative of great fiction." --Vanity Fair, 1 of 11 Nonfiction Books to Read This Fall

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

"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, 1 of 20 New Books to Read in October

"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, 1 of 12 Best Books to Read This Fall"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, 1 of 21 Books You'll Want to Read This Fall

"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, Most Anticipated Fall Books

"[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

"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, 1 of 10 Books to Read in October

"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, 1 of 23 Hot Picks for Cool Fall Books

"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, 1 of 34 Fall 2018 Books We Can't Wait to Read

"[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, 1 of 60 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018

"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

"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, 1 of 9 Books to Curl Up with This Cozy Time of Year

"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, 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

"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, 1 of 12 Best Books to Read This Fall

"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

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

"[A] stunning memoir . . . Chung's writing is vibrant and provocative as she explores her complicated feelings about her transracial adoption (which she 'loved and hated in equal measure') and the importance of knowing where one comes from." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"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

"This memoir documents the heartbreaking, profound, joyful journey that ensues." --Refinery29, One of the Best Books of October

"All You Can Ever Know is a gorgeously written memoir of culture, identity, and belonging. It's an absolute must-read this fall." --HelloGiggles, 1 of 8 Books Coming Out This Week

"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, 1 of 10 Inspirational Books to Jump-Start Your Best Fall Ever

"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, 1 of 22 Great Books You Should Cozy Up With in October

"Nicole Chung's first book, All You Can Ever Know, is an intimate reflection on adoption and family, a gorgeously-wrought personal story with universal reverberations." --Maud Newton, Barnes & Noble Review

"This touching memoir explores issues of identity, racism, motherhood, and sisterhood with eloquence and grace. Highly recommended." --Library Journal (starred review)

"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.'" --Kirkus Reviews

"[An] insightful memoir . . . Chung's clear, direct approach to her experience, which includes the birth of her daughter as well as her investigation of her family, reveals her sharp intelligence and willingness to examine difficult emotions." --Booklist

"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, One of the Best Fall Books of 2018

"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

"Chung's story shares what she learned and explores identity, belonging, family, and truth." --Bustle, 1 of 18 New Nonfiction Books to Know in October 2018

"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, 1 of 10 Inspiring New Memoirs by Women Hitting Shelves This Fall

"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, 1 of 10 Memoirs to Look Forward to This Season

"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

"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

"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

"Compassionate and astute, [Chung's] writing has much to tell us about race, America, belonging, and adoption." --Electric Literature, 1 of 46 Books By Women of Color to Read in 2018

"A deeply engrossing memoir about adoption and motherhood and the meaning of family." --Vanessa Hua, Electric Literature, 1 of 9 Books on the Complexities of Mother-Daughter Relationships

"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

"Chung creates a suspenseful story with her avalanches of questions and unexpected discoveries, and her hard-won insights into the nature of identity. She has many thoughts about adoption, but this is also an emotional and level-headed book about the rewards of questioning family expectations in order to come to terms with the complicated truth." --Shelf Awareness

"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

"While grappling with her identity Chung exposes the truths we all endure when we try to figure out where we truly belong.", 1 of 10 Books with Covers So Beautiful You Can Judge Them

"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.", 1 of 8 Books to Read This October

"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

"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

"[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-filled, truthful and page-turningly compelling, All You Can Ever Know is dexterous, honest work. Exquisite and inquisitive, it gets at the heart of what it means to belong." --Bookreporter

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

Nicole Chung has written for The New York Times, GQ, Longreads, BuzzFeed, Hazlitt, and Shondaland, among other publications. She is Catapult magazine's editor in chief and the former managing editor of The Toast. All You Can Ever Know is her first book. Foll ow her on Twitter at @nicole_soojung.
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Rating details

6,306 ratings
3.96 out of 5 stars
5 29% (1,853)
4 44% (2,751)
3 22% (1,400)
2 4% (248)
1 1% (54)
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