Language of Blood: A Memoir
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Language of Blood: A Memoir

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  227 ratings  ·  43 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)
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(showing 1-30 of 538)
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Walk-Minh Allen
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...more
Jim
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
Telly McGaha
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...more
Lacey Louwagie
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
Joan
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
April
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...more
Janey Bennett
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.
Bruce
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
Dakota
Apr 05, 2013 Dakota rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Amy
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...more
Carolyn
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...more
Jennifer
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
Valarie
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
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
Kasey
May 31, 2007 Kasey rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any and all adoptees, transracial or otherwise
I'd been meaning to read this book for a really long time, but some how never got around to it. Then, all of a sudden I just HAD to read it. I went to the closest bookstores, and neither of them had it in stock. I went to the library, and their check-out copy was gone too! But they did have an in-library copy, you know the kind you can't check out. So I spent 2 whole days in a row up in the reading lofts devouring this book. There were lots of shameless public displays of emotion over those 2 da...more
Linda
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
An amazing memoir. I have never felt more connected to a work or an author.
K
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michele
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.
~steph
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.
Abby
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.
Walter
Jul 07, 2007 Walter rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Mark
Aug 27, 2007 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Susan
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.
Heather Moss
Beautiful & amazing. I was so moved by this book and went through an entire range of emotions: sorrow, fear, joy, shame, disappointment. I look forward to reading Ms. Trenka's second memoir which came out recently.
Ms. Sonja Olson
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.
Nate
Jul 09, 2007 Nate rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Lisa
Definitely insight into what it was like for the author to be a Korean child adopted by an American family living in MN.
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