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The Language of Blood Paperback – Bargain Price, June 23, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Trenka remembers with gross delight headless chickens dancing around until collapse at her adoptive family's farm. She writes, "I wanted my head to be removed, a metaphor so strong that only later did I realize that it was not a death wish at all.... What I longed for was wholeness, for my body to be as white and Northern Minnesotan as my mind." Original and beautifully written reflections like these fill Trenka's memoir, a brave exploration of her identity as a Korean adoptee and pensive young woman trying to negotiate between two mothers and two lives. She traces her life from young, eager-to-please child to questioning adolescent. Once at college, she is stalked by an acquaintance with a sick fascination with her Asian heritage, forcing her to ask important questions about exoticization and violence. Finally, she brings readers with her to Korea, where she is reunited with her birth mother and homeland. Unlike some first-time writers, Trenka is unafraid with her prose and rarely falls into cliches, which is especially admirable given the subject matter. She brazenly dabbles with playwriting, screenwriting, crossword puzzles, myths and dream sequences throughout her account. Her journey, from the conservative Christian roots of rural Minnesota to her cramped and corrupt homeland of Korea, is winding, but it ends at an important place for both reader and writer: transformation. She writes, "I have made it my task to reconstruct the text of a family with context clues, and my intent is... to trust in the mysterious; to juxtapose the known with the unknown; to collect the overlooked."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Adoption memoirs are not rare, but this one stands out because of the quality of the writing and because of the aspect of adoption it portrays. Jane at six months and sister Carol, at four and a half, Korean by birth, were adopted by a Minnesota couple with strong German Lutheran roots. The girls were from a home beset by poverty and the drunken abuse of their birth father. Being sent away was an act of love by their Korean mother. Their adoptive parents loved the girls and raised them as their own. And here lies the problem for Jane. Their Korean identity was never addressed, leaving her with a strong sense of not belonging in either culture. Eventual contact with her birth family leads to a rift with her American parents. The author interweaves the account of her life, already tangled in time and place, with legends and plays, creating an incredibly introspective and moving piece. Perhaps not a comfort to transcultural adoptive parents, but thought-provoking reading on an important issue. Danise Hoover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (July 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555974260
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974268
  • ASIN: B0091XI4JQ
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,127,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Emma E. Woods on October 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
I first became aware of this book after I began researching my own adoption.I grew up in a very white suburban area, and was one if not the only minority in the area. I found this book extremely helpful in helping me come to terms with my own adoption and identity. An Asian American adoptees' voice is rare in the literary world, but Trenka does a beautiful job in describing and retelling the life of an adoptee.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Michael McDonald on March 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I actually met Jane Jeong Trenka before reading her book. She's one of the nicest, most understanding people I've ever met and reading her book only makes her more human and therefore more lovable.
As a Korean Adult Adoptee trying to break new ground with support groups and helping adopted childrens' programs in the North East, I find this book to be a wonderful escape from the "sugar-coated" world I present adoption through to the kids I work with, because I can so closely relate to it.
It is for this reason that I recommend this book to any adult adoptee or any person who is a relative or close friend of any adult adoptee. It gives us a glimpse of what we feel: longing, sadness, loss, curiosity, anger, resentment, and many more feelings beyond those that words can describe.
This book is an important milestone in the journey of our development for adult adoptee support groups and should be regarded as such. There are no words to describe how much this book will mean to some of us.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Moores on June 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
Jeong Trenka's memoir succeeded in being everything but a typical memoir. These are no mere stories. Her life is no mere series of events. By mixing her prose with drama, poetry, and imagined interactions, Jeong Trenka creates a journey much like that of Maxine Hong Kingston's "Warrior Woman": a blend of legend, history, and true life. Emotionally genuine, spiritually alive, fresh and new. A great read.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dorothy Serra on April 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Jane Jeong Trenka has an important story to tell and the craft to tell it. Her writing is clear, lyrical, filled with vitality. I like the chances she takes with structure, the odds and ends of text she borrows from diverse sources to inform her narrative. I'm interested in the shift of voice that occurs over the course of the book, the anger and power that builds as she discovers a more authentic sense of self. My 7-year old Chinese daughter conceptualizes her birth mother mostly as a tummy, someone who has not yet assumed the shape of a fully realized woman. But I have no doubt that this will change. Jane Jeong Trenka's story offers me an insightful guide for navigating these complicated waters, not for doing it "perfectly," but remaining open. This final word of the book continues to echo in my mind.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Monica Poling on May 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
The story is a about a young Korean adoptee, raised in a small Minnesota town, who struggles to find identity. Although growing up with Asian skin (but American in every other way) in a small, rural community was difficult, her self-identity becomes even blurrier as she becomes reacquainted with her Korean birth mother.

While the book mostly follows a linear progression through Jeong Trenka's life from her early childhood to her post-collegiate days, each chapter's place in that timeline is rather fluid, including elements from her past, her present, her future, as wells as bits and pieces from myths and stories. What adds to the story's chaotic feel, is that Jeong Trenka also uses such devices as screenplay text, poems, and even crossword puzzles to help drive the story.

The major internal conflict in this book is that Jeong trenka's struggle to identify herself as one something. Just as she struggles with what name to put on her marriage certificate, so she struggles with incorporating the various parts of her identity into one being.

Having wanted to escape from her small hometown, Harlow, from an early age, and having dealt with the prejudices of the people around her for most of her life, it is not surprising that her first visit to larger-than-life Korea should instantly feel right to her.

What was lacking in this story, however, was any juxtaposition of American prejudices measured against Korean prejudices. The author never mentions the "foreign-ness" that many overseas-raised Koreans feel upon visiting their birth country for the first time. No mention of the snickers and snide remarks by the Korean people towards Koreans unable to speak their mother language or those who have now become too Western.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Anne Salazar on September 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
I really liked this memoir. It is about the adoption of a Korean baby by a Minnesota family and that adoption's consequences. I liked the juxtaposition of Jane going back and forth, in her mind and heart as well as in reality, between the U.S. and Korea. I have often wondered about the international adoptions of Asian children, and the practice continues unabated today with Russian children being adopted in America. I don't think anyone who hasn't been through the experience could possibly relate to the horror of being taken from your mother, and then from your homeland. How terrible it must be, even for those who appear to have made the adjustment perhaps better than Jane. It appears that Jane's Minnesota family had no instruction, or even interest, in learning about Jane and her sister's background, either prior to the adoption or in the many years following, and unfortunately I think Jane is correct in her final conclusion that the American mother can't love her beyond a certain point because she just simply is not the child that the American mother wanted. Very sad. The book has moments of history and of humor in a book whose structure goes beyond the typical memoir. I finished the book wishing that I personally knew Jane, because she sounds very human and wise and open-minded and loyal and appears to have all those traits that draw people to her. I will be interested to learn if she has children of her own......
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