39 pages • 1 hour readNicole Chung
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Part 1 of All You Can Ever Know begins with Nicole’s reflections on two key aspects of her identity: being Korean and being adopted. Nicole’s white adoptive parents raised her in a predominantly white town outside Seattle, where she felt like an outsider despite her parents’ efforts to downplay race. Only after encountering large numbers of Asian students in college did Nicole begin to take pride in her heritage, though she continued to feel unconnected to Korean culture.
Nicole’s parents were honest about her adoption from the outset. Nevertheless, she struggled with looking different from the rest of her family and with being the only Asian person in her class. Answering her classmates’ questions was uncomfortable, especially when they referred to her birth parents as her “real” parents, but worse were the racial slurs directed at her by classmates. Only as an adult did she understand that what she experienced was racism.
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Interspersed with Nicole’s childhood memories are events from her adult life. Nicole describes meeting with a couple hoping to adopt. Instead of answering their questions honestly, she glossed over the racism she experienced as a child and her conflicted feelings about being adopted by white parents. She did not tell them that she fled to the other side of the country for college, or that she questioned her parents’ race-blind approach to raising a Korean child.