Monthly Archives: December 2018

They Called Me Wyatt, by Natasha Tynes

What an amazing book by first-time novelist, Natasha Tynes!Wyatt

“They Called Me Wyatt” is a two-part story beginning with Siwar Salaiha, a Jordanian student who is murdered on her birthday in College Park, Maryland, and is then reincarnated into a three year old boy named Wyatt. The second part of the book takes place twenty-five years later when Wyatt is a college student who is fascinated with the Middle East, and then, for reasons he can’t explain, becomes obsessed with Siwar’s murder. The case was originally ruled a suicide by police detectives. But only Wyatt knows that this was not a suicide, and he devotes his time to finding justice for Siwar.

This book had me hooked starting with page one. The storyline moves along at a nice clip and I found myself wanting more at the end of each chapter. It’s one of those books where you say to yourself “just one more chapter…” until you find yourself at the end of the book before you realize it.

I was surprised to learn from this book that the belief in reincarnation is practiced among some in the Middle East:

“There were some rumors though surrounding the Druze community in Lebanon, an offshoot of Islam. They apparently believed in reincarnation, and there were many tales of children all of a sudden narrating stories of their previous lives. The first time a child starts telling tales of a previous existence, they refer to it as Nataq, which translates into “he spoke”.”

There were many other interesting facts about the Middle East that were included in this story that helps the reader to understand that region a little better. It’s a region that is misunderstood in many ways. I appreciated how the main character opens up this world to us and how we get to follow her experience as a woman in Jordan and then as a student in Maryland.

To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. Tynes is an amazing writer who has a knack for storytelling and I was very surprised at how the story ended!

I’m honored that I was selected to receive an advanced copy of her book to review.

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir, by Nicole Chung

All You Can Ever KnowNicole Chung’s memoir, “All You Can Ever Know” is a story of adoption, self acceptance, and cultural sacrifice. Her memoir dives into the thoughts and feelings that she, and many transracial adoptees, share.

Chung was born to Korean parents who gave her up for adoption when she was a newborn, and she was then adopted and raised by white parents in rural Oregon. As an Asian American growing up in a mostly white town, she felt out of place. Often times, she would have to explain her adoption to people who were confused by why an Asian child would have white parents.

Offering the story I’d learned so early was, I thought, one way to gain acceptance. It was both the excuse for how I looked, and a way of asking pardon for it.

Like Chung, I was also adopted as a baby by white parents in a mostly homogenous town where nobody looked like me. My biological father was Egyptian, and as luck would have it, I inherited all of his dark features. I grew up with a sister who has blond hair and blue eyes. People would find it amusing that we were even related, let alone sisters!

I truly appreciated this book because I felt like Chung was expressing so many of the thoughts that I had growing up, in a very similar situation in Maine. For example, when she leaves the town she grew up in and goes off to college, she finally knows what it’s like to not be the only minority.

Every day, I felt relieved to have found a life where I was no longer surrounded by white people who had no idea what to make of me.

For me, going away to college was a huge turning point in my life. My whole childhood, being the “brown” kid was practically what defined me. People would look at me and ask what country I was from or why I didn’t have an accent. But when I went away and left rural Maine, I was no longer the only minority. Suddenly, what defined me was not the color of my skin, but the person that I was. This was something I found difficult expressing to my family. To them, race should not be a big deal. That it didn’t matter. Chung mentions that she received the same sort of response from her own family. And yet it does matter. It certainly matters to the person who gets treated like a foreigner in her own country, who is constantly asked where she “really” comes from.

It feels like my duty as my white family’s de facto Asian ambassador to remind them that I am not white, that we do experience this country in different ways because of it, that many people still know oppression far more insidious and harmful than anything I’ve ever faced. Every time I do this, I am breaching the sacred pact of our family, our once-shared belief that my race is irrelevant in the presence of their love.

The book continues on with Chung deciding to reach out to her biological family. This was not an easy decision for her, as I would assume it is not an easy decision for most adoptees. It certainly wasn’t for me. Finding a biological family seems like it would provide closure and would finally answer many questions. And yet it sometimes does neither.

If there’s something that everyone should know about adoption, it’s that there is no end to this. There’s no closure.

The thing I appreciate the most about this book is that it doesn’t sugar-coat the idea of adoption. When people hear other people’s adoption stories, the go-to phrase is always “you’re so lucky you were adopted.” And yes, they would be right! When someone is adopted, they are lucky to be placed in a loving home. But what we don’t think about is that there is always a sacrifice involved. I’m not talking about the sacrifice of the biological parents, but the sacrifice of the adopted child. Although that child is gaining a new family, he or she is also giving up his or her original identity, culture, and family history. For Chung, she gave up her Korean identity. She looks Korean and she will always be treated like a minority, but she doesn’t speak Korean or know the culture as she would if she had grown up with her biological family. Of course it is better that she was adopted, but her cultural sacrifice should not be ignored.

“All You Can Ever Know” illustrates the complexities of adoption that non-adoptees may not ever really understand. I am grateful to Nicole Chung for bravely writing about this experience and showing that adoption is not only about love, but finding self identity and acceptance in a complicated world.