Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Language of Blood: A Memoir” as Want to Read:
Language of Blood: A Memoir
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Language of Blood: A Memoir

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  302 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
An Adoptee's search for identity takes her on a journey from Minnesota to Korea and back as she seeks to resolve the dualities that have long defined her life: Korean-born, American-raised, never fully belonging to either culture. This evocative memoir explores the myriad facets of personal and cultural identity.
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published September 8th 2003 by Borealis Books (first published 2003)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Language of Blood, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Language of Blood

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 851)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Walk-Minh Allen
Jan 01, 2011 Walk-Minh Allen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been wanting to read this memoir for as long as I was made aware of it. I'm always interested in what other transracially adopted persons create because they share a history equivalent to mine.

The one main theme I recognized as I read through the book was the author's struggle with silence, both internally and externally. Many adoptees feel yoked to society's stereotype of an adoptee who should feel forever grateful for a second chance at life and eternally happy that they were saved from u
Feb 13, 2010 Jim rated it it was ok
This is the first book I've read by a Korean adoptee about the Korean adoptee experience. My overall impression was this: it was okay, but nothing more. On the one hand, Ms. Trenka paints interesting images of life in both Korea and in Minnesota, the state in which she was raised. Since I am a Korean adoptee who was raised only one state away, the Midwestern references were sometimes fun to read (but not really). On the other hand, I was never moved by her prose. Not once. And I really wanted to ...more
Aug 05, 2011 T.S. rated it really liked it
Trenka's enigmatic story is reminiscent of Shirley Geok-Lin Lim and Maxine Hong Kingston but moves far beyond the post-colonial experiences of those two writers. Her unique story does not even compare to the ethnic lit of second generation ________(fill in the blank)-Americans.

"The Language of Blood," instead, is a well told story about a woman who was adopted as a young age from Korea and raised in rural Minnesota. There are throwbacks to the post-colonial and second generation experience, but
Janey Bennett
Aug 19, 2010 Janey Bennett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adoption, attachment
This is the most articulate, vivid, and probably accurate account of psychic suffering I've ever seen. All the issues of loss of culture, loss of family, exile, difference, adoption pains that I could imagine are here, articulated directly and by metaphor, and faced with huge courage by the author. This is an extraordinarily brave work, and I recommend it very highly.
Lacey Louwagie
Oct 15, 2011 Lacey Louwagie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This book, about a Korean-American adoptee whose Korean birthmother reached out for a relationship, employed a lot of "experimental" techniques, such as including scripts for plays that depicted the author's relationship with her Asian identity, using names that dehumanized people (Mrs. A, Mrs. B, Mr. CEO), and mini-essays and stories within the larger narrative. While these snippets were at times interesting, they also made the story feel disjointed. Even in the more traditional storytelling, t ...more
Jan 16, 2012 Joan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I read the other reviews of this book and I'm confused. I don't know how one would "enjoy" this story - it's compelling, it's moving, but it wasn't the kind of read I'd connect to enjoyment. Maybe it's because I know people who feel as Trenka does - they didn't do something, it was done to them, and yes, she and they are victims. It's how it's dealt with that makes her story compelling. Her amazing voice and command of words made me unable to put this down. The two adoptees in my house made me w ...more
Jul 11, 2015 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superb memoir. I felt I learned a lot about some of the unique inner struggles of adopted children, particularly those who must deal with being of a different race than their parents and other family members. The flood of Korean adoptees in particular during the 1950s-1970s were especially prone to adoption by parents unprepared to give credence to their adopted children's special background, to their country of origin and to their birth families. The author was a sensitive person who felt her ...more
Jun 18, 2014 April rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adoption
Jane Jeong Trenka was adopted with her sister from Korea as an infant in the 70's and raised in rural Minnesota by a white couple who were incapable of having children of their own. Jane's story is common--we see it every day. A kind, white couple doing the right thing--adopting poor children from overseas who deserve a better life. But is adoption always the ultimate good--a situation for which the adoptive children should be eternally grateful for?

From the moment Jane and Carol were picked up
Feb 18, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it
The author and her sister, four years older, were placed for adoption in the U.S. by their Korean mother to escape an abusive situation at the hands of their alcoholic father. Both Jane and her sibling end up in a farming community in western Minnesota where there are no other Asians and no opportunity to explore their Korean heritage. Through the persistence of her birth mother, who seems to be a force of nature, contact is made, and first one, and then several more trips back to Korea are made ...more
Apr 05, 2013 Dakota rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dakota by: Korean Tourism Website
Shelves: favorites
I can't recall very many books that were as stimulating as this one. The Language of Blood is unlike any memoir I have read. This is my first experience with adoption and related subjects, but Trenka's story is so moving that I will be sure to pursue other books like it.

At times her story is saddening, well the majority of her early story is saddening, but it evolves into a combination of despair and hope that connects the reader with the author almost instantly.

The book maintains a somewhat di
Sep 06, 2010 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
My brother was home from college this weekend, and he had to read this book for his Ethnic class. Since I had nothing else better to do and I love to read, I took this book and read it. I can't even think of words to describe this book; I loved it.

I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 7. Just like the author herself, I've struggled to balance between who I was and who I am. It's really hard sometimes. I'm now 16, and this summer I get to go back to Taiwan. It's exciting and nerve-wracking at the s
Carolyn Lind
Dec 12, 2011 Carolyn Lind rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
This book surprised me with the degree to which I enjoyed it. Personally aware of some of the challenges adoption may bring, I began to notice as the story unfolded that the author's self descriptions were very much like those associated with RAD. When her psychologist sister finally suggested exactly that I was impressed. Her life as an infant certainly would account for both RAD and PTSD; she likely suffered from both.

This is a book that I would highly recommend for adoptive parents. As Jane's
May 28, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this memoir! Having never read anything about one's experience with adoption, I found this to be very, very interesting. I enjoyed the author's voice as it was both personable and sarcastic and aloof at times. Most of the story went in order, but at times it would jump around, which I also enjoyed. Being a Minnesotan myself, I could relate to some of the Midwestern culture she seemed to both love and hate. A very beautiful, honest, and raw memoir. Not only did it help me understand what ...more
This is a valuable memoir for Korean adoptees and adoptive parents alike, but outside of that demographic, it's not a necessary read. The author meanders through her life story, including every significant event regardless of whether it fit with the story. The complaints about her parents are less that they were white adoptive parents and more that they were people who taught her to suppress her feelings, and refused to acknowledge any of their own emotions. This is dangerous for children of any ...more
Courtney Huber
Aug 15, 2011 Courtney Huber rated it it was amazing
A lyrical and lovely memoir. The author's attempt to weave together all parts of her family history and herself are moving and powerful. At first I was afraid that the mixture of storytelling elements would feel like a grad school exercise, but this felt very appropriate and beautifully executed. I truly enjoyed getting a look into her confusing and multifaceted life, both as an American and as a Korean, as she tries to figure out and articulate her identity. Even her parents are three-dimension ...more
Bev Sturgis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 29, 2011 Linda rated it liked it
Shelves: adoption
In this autobiography, Korean adoptee Jane Trenka writes a touching and honest personal account of transnational adoption from the perspective of the adoptee. She discusses the profound loss of identity she suffered growing up without acknowledgment of her cultural roots. I am the mother of an adopted child of a different race, and this book gave me food for thought. I did however, think it was quite one sided, focusing on the negative aspects of the experience without any nod to benefits adopti ...more
Diane Diaz
Mar 30, 2014 Diane Diaz rated it it was amazing
An amazing memoir. I have never felt more connected to a work or an author.
from a literary standpoint she sounds phenomenal. but I know enough about her reputation in Korea that I must dive in with extreme caution. ...from one Korean adoptee perspective to another we'll see what rabbit hole she leads me down
Laurie owyang
Aug 11, 2009 Laurie owyang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Language of Blood is worthy attempt at depicting the complexity of transnational adoption, home, kinship, family and race. Her commitment to also addressing the methodology of adoptee narratives is obvious in her varied writing styles and form. Though the writing itself is not as nuanced as I wish it were, it's worth a read, especially if you have never entered this dialouge before.
Fred Daly
This memoir alternately fascinated and annoyed me. She does a few self-conscious writerly things, like inserting little one-act plays and whatnot, and these didn't feel organic. She also came across as whiny at times. However, her thoughts about being stuck between two cultures were compelling, and the chapter in which she describes being stalked is very powerful and disturbing.
Oct 20, 2008 ~steph rated it liked it
It's really so far interesting to read about her life! Also, some events in her life that coincide with mine makes it seem more real. (I, too, have been on the trip to Korea with CHS, and I've met Mrs. Han!) It does jump around quite a bit, which makes it hard to follow in some parts, but all in all an interesting read.
Nov 27, 2008 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a3fc2-book-club
An adult Korean adoptee's perspective on adoption by US parents and reuniting with her birth family. Suggest for parents of older, internationally adopted kids - while recognizing that the differences among families and countries of origin make every family's experience unique.
Jul 07, 2007 Walter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: memoir
I was blown away by the power of this book! The Language of Blood is a mixed-genre memoir that set the bar high for all others in that sub-genre. My only bone to pick: the cover on the Borealis Books hardcover is much cooler than that of Graywolf's paperback.
Aug 27, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adoptees, transracial adoptees, adoptive parents, korean studies, women's studies
I mark this with four stars... but it is very fine. She includes a brief account in childhood about a monarch butterfly which unifies many themes in the book. I'm looking forward to reading it again... this time for the details.
Feb 02, 2011 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A compelling, honest look at international adoption through the eyes of an adoptee. Not always flattering to the adoptive family, but an important read for all adults contemplating international adoption. I recommend it.
Ms. Sonja Olson
Jun 07, 2013 Ms. Sonja Olson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Minnesota author! A multi-genre book! A great study on identity and growing up as a minority in Minnesota! I lost this book, and I paid full price to buy it again, it's that good.
Jul 09, 2007 Nate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Wow, what a book! This is one that brings up a lot of questions regarding adoption. As with difficult questions there are no easy answers.
Nov 17, 2009 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely insight into what it was like for the author to be a Korean child adopted by an American family living in MN.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 28 29 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Single Square Picture
  • In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories
  • Inside Transracial Adoption
  • Lucky Girl
  • Somebody's Daughter
  • Black Baby White Hands: A View from the Crib
  • Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self
  • Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States
  • Lost & Found: The Adoption Experience
  • Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today's Parents
  • The Family of Adoption: Completely Revised and Updated
  • Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft
  • Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People
  • The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance
  • The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption
  • The Winged Seed: A Remembrance
  • I Wish for You a Beautiful Life: Letters from the Korean Birth Mothers of Ae Ran Won to Their
  • I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World

Share This Book