The Language of Blood

The Language of Blood

3.8 10
by Jane Jeong Trenka

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"A book that translates, and transcends, the eternal question of home, belonging, family, identity." —Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

My name is Jeong Kyong-Ah. My ancestry includes landowners, scholars, and government officials. I have six siblings. I am a citizen of the Republic of Korea. I come from a land of pear fields and streams, where people


"A book that translates, and transcends, the eternal question of home, belonging, family, identity." —Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

My name is Jeong Kyong-Ah. My ancestry includes landowners, scholars, and government officials. I have six siblings. I am a citizen of the Republic of Korea. I come from a land of pear fields and streams, where people laugh loudly and honor their dead. Halfway around the world, I am someone else.

Jane Jeong Trenka and her sister Carol were adopted by Frederick and Margaret Brauer and raised in the small, homogeneous town of Harlow, Minnesota—a place "where the sky touches the earth in uninterrupted horizon . . . where stoicism is stamped into the bones of each generation." They were loved as American children without a past.

With inventive and radiant prose that includes real and imagined letters, a fairy tale, a one-act play, crossword puzzles, and child-welfare manuals, Trenka recounts a childhood of insecurity, a battle with a stalker that escalates to a plot for her murder, and an extraordinary trip to Seoul to meet her birth mother and siblings. Lost between two cultures for the majority of her life, it is in Korea that she begins to understand her past and the power of the unspoken language of blood.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A powerful addition to the literature of American identity.” —Minnesota Monthly

Product Details

Graywolf Press
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 8.44(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Jane Jeong Trenka has won numerous awards and fellowships for her writing. The Language of Blood is her first book.

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The Language of Blood 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author should have written this memoir after she reached a level of self-awareness as well as learned the meaning of being humble, a respected trait in Korean culture. Adoption does not give entitlement. As a parent who has adopted two Korean children, I was excited to purchase this book, but came away with an empty stomach. Trenka reveals herself as selfish and arrogant and I'm not surprised that she had relationship tensions with her American family and adopted sister. I questioned her sincerity when she let money and vacation days come between her when her birth mother passed away. Her real struggle appears being a Korean in a white community. She seems only to find peace within herself after her birth mother has died and she's marries a white man, returning to Korea to show him off to her half sisters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This memoir is 'about' being a Korean-born adoptee, and many of the author's experiences are unique to her. Nevertheless, some of her observations will ring true for anyone who has ever wondered whether/how they 'fit in,' with family or a culture. Trenka is still a young woman, and her life story remains a work-in-progress. She's not pretending to know the answers to all the questions she raises. The story itself is riveting; it's hard to put this book down. I was left wanting a sequel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a 28 year old white male and I'm not adopted. While I'm sensitive to Trenka's messages regarding trans-racial adoption, I feel that her book offers everyone an insight into their own humanity. Trenka tackles issues of identity, familial relationships, and self discovery, to name a few. As a human, her messages couldn't be more relevant. Whether you're an adoptee, adoptive parent, or just another person, Trenka's book bears a human message which speaks to us all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Original? The parts with crossword puzzles and one-act plays have been done before. The collage is an old medium, the dadaists did it, others did it. I think the reviews call this book original because it goes into subject areas memoirs haven't before(transracial adoption in the Midwest), not because the ways of telling the story are original. Or let's hope so. Otherwise North America really is as underread as people say. Poetic? Compared to other memoirs you could call it poetic but what does that say? Anyone can and mostly everyone does write a memoir. The question is whether this a poetic book compared to other non-fiction works, Anne Dilliard or Jane Bronx? Maybe. Probably not. So this is a pretty good memoir, but personally I can't shake the feeling reading the book that it is all so self-pitying. The ending hinting at redemption feels forced. The family in Minneosta one-dimensional and wooden. It's okay. I would rather pick up a novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Generally I have enjoyed all of the books I've purchased from the Discover New Authors selections, but this one was a disappointment. Certainly it has numerous merits; the prose is lovely and the emotions heartfelt. But as a memoir the book tended to gloss over many less comfortable areas. I would have liked to have seen a more honest examination of the relationships with the adoptive parents and sister. The candid and heartfelt telling of the relationship with Umma was strangely juxtaposed with a contrived, one dimensional look at identity and life with the adoptive family. As an adult adoptee and an adoptive parent I am familiar with the complexity of these issues and found this portrayal of them to be overly simplistic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jane Jeong Trenka captivatingly writes about her struggles in the dichotomy of being an adopted Korean living in a small, rural town. In essence, it's living two lives. She writes (about her former self before being adopted, Kyong-Ah, and her sister, Mi-Ja) '...Kyong-Ah, who lived to the age of six months, and Mi-Ja, who died at four years of age when she became Carol. From the photographic evidence, Carol came into this world as a child and was never a baby at all.' These words echoed truths to me, as I was able to relate to Trenka's struggles to find her identity as an adopted Korean. Raised in a small, farming community in rural Minnesota surrounded by blonde haired, blue eyed Minnesotans; Trenka doesn't fit in with her black hair and slanted eyes¿even though she's as American as they are. When Trenka visits Korea, again, she struggles to fit in because although Trenka physically blends in, cultural customs and language barriers initially stand in her way. Once Trenka faces her past, she is able to find peace with her two families and two cultures, which ultimately is the key in finding her voice. Trenka¿s story is one that can be related by anyone who has struggling to define themselves. The Language of Blood gave me courage to face questions about my own past, and helped me be more open to embracing my different cultural influences. It showed me that to fully understand myself, I must first understand my past. In a lyrical prose style, Trenka begins each chapter with originative passages written in the forms of a short story, a play or monologue, a crossword puzzle or letters exchanged with her birthmother, which was insightfully written and easily flowed from one chapter to the next. The Language of Blood is an exemplary work of creative literary non-fiction and memoir.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Language of Blood' is one of the most creatively told, well-written autobiographies I have read to date. Jane Jeong Trenka's story is one that in a sense feels familiar to me, as a fellow Midwestern-raised Korean adoptee - yet each adoptee's journey is personal and varied, so reading 'Blood,' I found myself transported into a life experience both oddly parallel to and uniquely different from my own. Simultaneously poetic yet openly honest, Trenka's personal narrative takes you from her childhood in a conservative, rural Minnesota setting, to Korea itself, where she walks the grounds her birth family knew as home, and whose history courses through her veins. From facing her stalker, who transposes his own warped racist stereotypes of Asian women onto her surface appearance, to facing her difficulties grasping the language that her blood should know as its own, Trenka's story is real and truthful in its humor and pain. Asians, Asian Americans, adoptees and adoptive families, as well as anyone who falls into absolutely none of those categories, can appreciate the warmth, truth and spirit in this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was insanely well written. The author does a good job of pulling you into her emotions, so you feel exactly how she feels. I admire the bravery the author took to state her feelings about her experience growing up as a Korean-adoptee in rural Minnesota. You really have to read the book to get the feel for what I am saying. Go on! Read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. Great for Korean Adopties over the age of 14. Jane Trenka is almost cynical in parts of her writing, which makes her book even more fun to get caught up in. However, you cannot say even in the slightest manner that this woman has a cold heart. Language of Blood is filled with some pretty heart breaking scenes from Jane's childhood, but in the end manages to reverse her past luck into making some beautiful relationships with her extended family in Korea. (I don't think she would refer to them as extended family.) I recommend this book because it's insightful, in all sense of the word. I believe all Korean Adoptive Parents, and Adopties themselves should read this, and although each of our stories are different - it is often easy to grab tid-bits of stories that we find easy to relate to. I hope that made sense. Now go out to your local bookstore, (support the local shops) and buy Language of Blood. It's a book you'll surely enjoy.