39 pages 1 hour read

Nicole Chung

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2018

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Symbols & Motifs

Books and Writing

Books and writing are recurring motifs in Nicole’s memoir that relate to escapism and family. Nicole felt isolated growing up in a white household. She not only looked different from her parents, but also from her extended family and larger community. Some of Nicole’s classmates bullied her for being Korean and being adopted. Her adoptive parents told her to ignore the taunts, but they become more frequent over time. Lonely and creative, Nicole sought refuge in reading and writing: “I was isolating myself more and more at school, retreating to the library as often as possible […] I’d always been a bookish child” (43).

Nicole’s interest in writing grew over time, and throughout the memoir her changing use of her writing reflects her changing relationship with her Korean identity. She went from writing stories with white protagonists to creating diverse characters with heroic capabilities. As an adult, she began writing essays about adoption, family, gender, the media, and the search for her birth family.

Most important of all, after reuniting with her birth family, Nicole realized that writing was a family trait. Her birth father was a published author and a scholar of Korean literature and linguistics.