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Language of Blood: A Memoir
by Jane Jeong Trenka
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2003
Cloth: 978-0-87351-466-8

ABOUT THIS BOOK
ABOUT THIS BOOK
A lyrical memoir by a Korean adoptee that explores the many facets of personal and cultural identity.

An adoptee's search for identity takes her on a journey from Minnesota to Korea and back as she seeks to resolve the dualities that have long defined her life: Korean-born, American-raised, never fully belonging to either.

For years, Korean adoptee Jane Jeong Trenka tried to be the ideal daughter. She was always polite, earned perfect grades, and excelled as a concert pianist. She went to church with her American family in small-town Minnesota and learned not to ask about the mother who had given her away. Then, while she was far from home on a music scholarship, living in a big city for the first time, one of her fellow university students began to follow her, his obsession ultimately escalating into a plot for her murder.

In radiant prose that ranges seamlessly from pure lyricism to harrowing realism, Trenka recounts repeated close encounters with her stalker and the years of repressed questions that her ordeal awakened. Determined not to be defined by her stalker's twisted assessment of her worth, she struck out in search of her own identity-free of western stereotypes of geishas and good girls. Doing so, however, meant confronting her American family and fighting the bureaucracy at the agency that had arranged for her adoption.

Jane Jeong Trenka dares to ask fundamental questions about the nature of family and identity. Are we who we decide to be, or who other people would make us? What is this bond more powerful than words, this unspoken language of blood? To find out, Trenka must reacquaint herself with her mother and sisters in Seoul and devise a way to blend two distinct cultures into one she can call her own. The Language of Blood is a one-of-a-kind coming-of-age story, seared into the memory by indelible images and unforgettable prose. This is a poetic tour-de-force by an essential new voice in Asian American literature.

JANE JEONG TRENKA graduated magna cum laude from Augsburg College with degrees in music performance and English literature. She has at various times been a gas station attendant, a sheet music salesperson, a lounge pianist, a dishwasher, and a music instructor. She has been awarded the Brenda Ueland Prize, a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, a Loft Creative Non-Fiction Award, and a SASE/Jerome Award. The Language of Blood is her first book.

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