My name is Jeong Kyong-Ah. My ancestry includes landowners, scholars, and government officials. I have six siblings. I am a citizen of the Republic of Korea. I come from a land of pear fields and streams, where people laugh loudly and honor their dead. Halfway around the world, I am someone else.
Jane Jeong Trenka and her sister Carol were adopted by Frederick and Margaret Brauer and raised in the small, homogeneous town of Harlow, Minnesota—a place “where the sky touches the earth in uninterrupted horizon . . . where stoicism is stamped into the bones of each generation.” They were loved as American children without a past.
With inventive and radiant prose that includes real and imagined letters, a fairy tale, a one-act play, crossword puzzles, and child-welfare manuals, Trenka recounts a childhood of insecurity, a battle with a stalker that escalates to a plot for her murder, and an extraordinary trip to Seoul to meet her birth mother and siblings. Lost between two cultures for the majority of her life, it is in Korea that she begins to understand her past and the power of the unspoken language of blood.
Original and beautifully written…Her journey is winding, but it ends at an important place for both reader and writer: transformation.
The ending it offers is not predictable or easy, but bittersweet, perhaps the only kind an exile could achieve.
–Los Angeles Times
A courageous memoir that deserves a wide readership.
–Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers
Adoption memoirs are not rare, but this one stand out because of the quality of the writing and because of the aspect of adoption it portrays…an incredibly introspective and moving piece.
A book that translates, and transcends, the eternal question of home, belonging, family, identity… The book, a lovely chaos of art and imagination and memory, reads like life itself.
–Minneapolis Star Tribune
Startling in its intensity and lyrical in its breathtaking prose. You won’t be able to put it down.
A powerful addition to the literature of American identity.
Whether trans-racially adopted or born into a long line of blood, the reader finishes the book with a better understanding of the pain of displacement and the internal battle to reclaim self without severing ties to the ones who have loved you.
Courageous enough to be ambivalent: Its collage structure…is loose enough to reveal the truth in between.
This book can serve as a conduit to insights into our own families, to open up those conversations we’ve been meaning to have.
–Adoptive Families Magazine
Bold and unflinching, whether speaking of wonder or horror, love or shame.
–Cheri Register, author of Beyond Good Intentions
Trenka tackles sensitive issues head-on by asking questions about the nature of family, identity and hereditary memory. While her viewpoints may strike some readers as disturbing, ungrateful — even radical — her message is of great interest to many in the adoption field.
–St. Paul Pioneer Press
The reader leaves having fully experienced the repression, the emptiness, the terror and the peace lived by Trenka without excessive explication and overdramatization.
The memoir succeeds beautifully with its sheer honesty and breadth of heart. Immersing herself into the sights, sounds and smells of Korea, Trenka unwittingly shows herself to be a fearless explorer.
–KoreAm February 2004
The general architecture of Trenka’s accessible memoir gestures specifically toward DICTEE, a much more enigmatic predecessor, as if to remedy DICTEE’s impenetrability while pointing to it as relevant to Trenka’s own particular notion of identity.
–Heinz Insu Fenkl in “The Future of Korean American Literature”