Author Nicole Chung Visits, Discusses Her Experiences as an Adoptee

Chung’s most recent memoir was the focus of Assistant Professor of English Elizabeth Kim’s Introduction to Asian American Literature class this fall.

On Dec. 7, Haverford welcomed bestselling author Nicole Chung to VCAM for a reading and discussion of her two celebrated memoirs. Her first, All You Can Ever Know, chronicled her adoption by a white family in Oregon and the search for her birth family, which has influenced much of her writing. A Living Remedy, which was released last spring, recounts the death of her adoptive parents as well as the challenges of healthcare access and equity. 

“I don’t know of a higher honor than my books being discussed and engaged with than people like you,” Chung said to the crowd in VCAM. In addition to her books, Chung is a regular contributor to The Atlantic and has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, and many other publications. 

She kicked off the event by reading excerpts from both books and engaged in a discussion moderated by Assistant Professor of English Elizabeth Kim and Eryn Peritz BMC ’25, co-founder of the Bi-Co Asian Adoptees Club. A signing and sale followed. 

Kim’s students delved into All You Can Ever Know this fall, exploring Chung’s story and the ways her book has expanded the definition of autobiography and Asian American memoirs. 

“When I taught All You Can Ever Know in my Intro to Asian American Literature course, I discussed with my students the ways in which Chung grapples with ambivalence,” Kim says, “What became evident as we confronted these tensions is that they convey a messy and therefore more realistic representation of the complexities of Asian adoptee identity.” 

Coordinating Chung’s appearance took more than six months, with talks beginning in April. Students from the Bi-Co Asian Adoptees affinity group worked closely with the English department to secure funding, ultimately turning to the Weaver fund to sponsor the event. 

All You Can Ever Know chronicles Chung’s search for her biological parents and her reconnection with her biological sister. While searching for her parents was not something that interested Chung growing up, she felt compelled to when she was pregnant with her first child.

“All the questions l had [about my adoption] loomed larger because I wasn’t going to be able to give my children that information [if l didn’t search]. Realizing l could do this for her and for me made me brave enough to search,” Chung said.

When crafting her memoir about the experience, Chung wanted to counteract the stereotypical narrative of birth-parent searches as being a cure-all and having a happy ending.

“It was really important for me to show what happens after the reunion, what happens after the adoptee does a search for her history,” she says.

Chung’s second book, A Living Remedy, describes the loss of both of her adoptive parents within two years of each other due to medical complications. The book has been greatly received, being named one of this year’s The New York Times notable books and a must-read book by Time.

“It’s important to tell my story because being an adoptee is such an underrepresented narrative in literature,” Chung reflects. “I feel like I’m part of a very beautiful literary lineage.”