Lacey Louwagie's Reviews > The Language of Blood

The Language of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka
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Sep 28, 2011

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bookshelves: memoir
Read from September 28 to October 15, 2011 — I own a copy

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, there were pieces in there that seemed not to belong; the definition of memoir is one that ties together a life based around particular themes, which isn't the same as an autobiography, which is more a record of events. Some details included here, while clearly central to the author's life, also felt out of place in this story, such as details about a man who stalked her in college. On the other hand, I found myself wanting MORE information about the parts of her life that did relate to her central narrative, such as her relationship with her birthsister (who was adopted by the same family) and additional details about her life with her parents.

At first, I was put off my Jane's tone, which did come across as a little whiny and entitled. But as the story unfolds, we see that Jane understands both the gifts and the hardship that comes with interracial adoption, and we also see that her parents mishandled the experience in many ways (denying her Korean identity, not supporting her in her grief when her birthmother died, etc.) We also see Jane's forgiveness of them and her genuine warmth toward other Korean adoptees and their adoptive parents. By the end of the story, I fully emphasized with Jane's perpetual identity as an "outsider" and understood how this struggle to find self and an emotional home could wreak havoc upon her psyche. Although I didn't love this book, I'm keeping it in my collection because I still hope to pursue international adoption one day, and I want this book as a potential resource for a child who could face similar identity struggles.
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09/28/2011 page 79
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

the not belonging and disjointed feelings are intentional as she felt disjointed as if she did not belong...

Salela Thank Nikki. I agree with that assessment and I think she did a brilliant job of using literary devices to convey that alienation.

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