Book Review | All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

Nicole Chung
Publication date:
October 2nd 2018
Received from publisher.

Before getting my hands on a review copy of Nicole Chung’s exquisite memoir, I was already hearing praise about both her book and her writing in general. As a freelance writer, Chung has had her writing appear in Hazlitt, The Toast, Slate and The New York Times Magazine. And in her first book, she tells us the story of her own adoption.

While I am not adopted nor am I aware of anyone in my immediate social circle that was adopted, I was still able to relate to a certain aspects of Chung’s story. For instance the bullying she endured from others among the other challenges of growing up Asian in a town where there were few people who looked like you was something that I also experience. Furthermore, I too was always looking for Asian characters to relate to in the books, movies and TV shows that were around when I grew up and was disappointed when they weren’t prevalent. That’s why I truly loved how Chung’s story about her experiences growing up emphasizes the importance of non-stereotypical, diverse representation in the media. As it’s vital that all kids see and read about characters who look like them, so that they too can believe that they can be a hero/heroine. 

Additionally, I love how All You Can Ever Know is an eye-opening read on the various complicated layers of adoption, particularly interracial adoption as she a baby from a Korean family who was adopted into a family of European descent. Chung never downplays the pros of her adoption, however she also doesn’t hold back when it comes to the harsh realities of being adopted and being of a different race than your adoptive family. This is further realized when she is reunited with her birth family, the complications and difficult truths that come from it show that when it comes to family nothing is ever truly black or white. Speaking of family, my favourite part of Chung’s story was the bond that forms between her and one of her older biological sisters, Cindy. The two of become quite close and as a result Cindy’s story is briefly woven into the memoir through various short chapters told using a third person narrator as opposed to the first person voice that Chung uses to tell her own story in this book.

All You Can Ever Know was a book that genuinely touched me and moved me to tears. Chung’s writing is raw, clear and eloquent which made her memoir an incredibly poignant read. I would highly recommend this memoir for those who are looking for a gripping and emotional story with honest insights on family, race, motherhood, identity, and heritage.




Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.