Oct 2, 2005

Somebody's Daughter, Marie Myung Ok Lee

I read this book mostly because it has personal appeal to me: it is about a girl who is Korean but adopted to a white family in America. My sister is Korean and grew up here with us, her totally white family. The plot centers around when she is about 18, goes off to college but ends up leaving school (much to her adoptive parents horror) and going to Korea to try to figure out who she is.

I’m having a hard time saying whether I liked this book or not because I had so many personal expectations going in. And this girl’s story and my sister’s just don’t overlap very much at all, so the book didn’t meet my expectations.

Anyway, the girl in the story, Sarah Thorson, goes to Korea and enrolls in a school to learn Korean. Although she appears Korean, she really is pretty much an outsider there because she can’t speak the language at all and doesn’t understand the first thing about the culture. Her white family had told her her parents had died in a car crash, which she finds out was a total lie – she was found abandoned at a fire station and no one has any idea who her parents are.

The book switches back and forth between Sarah’s story and the story of her birth mother. So we as readers know who she is and what her life was like. The book is interesting in that it takes a good look at a portion of the US population that seems under-represented (from my biased point of view) – there are so many Korean adoptees in our country. On the other hand, the story is so specific that it is hard to take a larger lesson. The author does hit on one point that seems more universal, at least from conversations with my sister and some other Korean adoptees we’ve known: it is bizarre to walk around looking Korean on the outside, but being acculturated as white because of who you grow up with and the larger environment. Especially then when you go out into the world as an adult and people don’t know your family so they don’t know you didn’t grow up within a certain culture. When my sister went to college, other Asian students were trying to talk with her about certain cultural things and she had to explain herself. The book does a good job explaining that aspect of being adopted.


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