October 2020 | Books & Links
Stork Mountain – Miroslav Penkov
It took me ages to finish Stork Mountain, but only because I have lost my reading habit this year. The library closed for months on end and I have been glued to my phone reading the news, opinion pieces, and other periodicals that are available online. Reading books takes discipline, and my mind has been all over the place this year.
Stork Mountain is a beautiful novel, set in a village in Bulgaria close to the borders with both Greece and Turkey. It’s a novel about identity, belonging and place, and the narrative is rich with folklore – both real and imagined – tracing the history of the land and the author / protagonist’s relationship with his country of origin. I found the folklore quite dense at times and had to check maps and Wikipedia lots to understand the geography and politics of the region, so it wasn’t quite as immersive a read as I had hoped it might be, but that’s just my personal experience as I am unfamiliar with the region. I would love to read Penkov’s short story collection East of the West next.
All You Can Ever Know – Nicole Chung
All You Can Ever Know is a memoir of adoption and motherhood. Nicole Chung is a Korean American who was adopted as a premature baby and brought up by a white family who never spoke to her about her birth family, her race, or her lived experience of being the only Korean and Asian person in her home town. Newly pregnant in her mid twenties and desperate to know more about her birth family and medical history, she began to pull apart the secrets of her childhood and went looking for her birth parents and biological siblings.
All You Can Ever Know is a beautifully written account of Nicole’s experience of interracial adoption, and what it means to be a mother, a daughter, and a sister. Though Nicole eventually decided not to pursue a relationship with her birth mother, she has met her birth father and built a strong relationship with her biological sister, the two quickly becoming as close as if they had grown up together.