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

The Language of Blood

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  406 ratings  ·  57 reviews
"A book that translates, and transcends, the eternal question of home, belonging, family, identity." —Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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 the
Paperback, 261 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Graywolf Press (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 The Language of Blood, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Language of Blood

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  406 ratings  ·  57 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Language of Blood
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Walk-Minh Allen
Jan 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Janey Bennett
Aug 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Lacey Louwagie
Sep 28, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
The author's journey to patch the pieces together of her life (her American mom and her Korean mom (Umma)) created a kaleidoscope of bittersweet, radiant colors. The emotional depth and powerful prose affected me in ways I can't express in words, only in tears.

"There is nothing in my sight but me, a dim lamp, and a miraculous telephone connecting me to the other side of the world, to my mother, who could say nothing but my name, over and over in her breaking voice, “Kyong-Ah. Kyong-Ah.” (71)

Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book details the author's journey towards self-discovery after having been expelled from her own homeland and adopted by an American couple, an act which severed her connection to her country, nationality and history, and erased her native language, culture and name.

Jane Jeong Trenka is one of the few who have dared stand up to the international adoption industry in Korea, having eventually returned to her homeland where she became an activist for change. I admire her courage in stating, in
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I first came across this author while watching an episode of Obsession: Dark Desires. When I found out she had written about her experience with a stalker, I found this book. The stalking experience is just a small portion of this book. The rest of the book is quite fascinating as well. In it, she discusses how she was adopted from Korea along with one of her sisters and raised in Minnesota. She talks about what is was like growing up Asian in a mostly white town, reconnecting with her birth mot ...more
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bijal Shah
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book that explores the universal question of identity, family and home and will resonate with most of us on many, different levels.

Beautifully narrated the memoir's central characters, Jane Jeong Trenka and her sister Carol (both Korean) are adopted by a white couple Frederik and Margaret Bauer in Harlow, Minnesota. They were raised as American children with American values, however the absence of a past continued to haunt them and eventually they connected with their mother and 4 other siblin
Laurie owyang
Aug 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was, hands down, my favorite memoir/autobiography that I have ever read. Jane tells her story with vivid imagery and she uses a variety of tools such a creation myths and play scenes in order to make her points. As an adoptee, reading about Jane's experience was really meaningful to me. I think that every adoptee should look into this book, and non-adoptees should read it to gain insight about the intricate identity formation process that adoptees struggle through.
Sep 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Fred Daly
Jun 22, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 12, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
The voice is annoyingly self-indulgent. But I'm finding that's often the nature of very real and necessarily cathartic writing. I say this as an intercountry adoptee from China, and I respect the author for putting this out.
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sad but I would recommend to someone considering an international adoption. I don't think it would change my mind about adopting but it would help me better understand the viewpoint of a child new to American culture.
Mar 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for parents of adopted girls...especially if you live in MN where this TRUE story takes place.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • If I Had Your Face
  • Sex and Vanity
  • Made for Love
  • Anseo
  • Citizen: An American Lyric
  • Love From A to Z
  • Forgotten Country
  • Pizza Girl
  • Ru
  • Almond
  • Crossings
  • A Map of Home
  • The Downstairs Girl
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
  • A Song Below Water
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water
  • The Terracotta Bride
  • Luster
See similar books…

Related Articles

If you follow the world of food, chances are you’ve heard of David Chang. The founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, Chang is a chef, TV...
45 likes · 5 comments