A Single Square Picture: A Korean Adoptee's Search for Her Roots

Overview

One day she was Kim Ji-yun, growing up in Seoul, Korea. The next day she was Catherine Jeanne Robinson, living with her new American family in Salt Lake City, Utah. Twenty years later, Katy Robinson returned to Seoul in search of her birth mother--and found herself an American outsider in her native land. What transpired in this world--at once familiar and strange, comforting and sad--left Katy conflicted, shattered, exhilarated, and moved in ...
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Overview

One day she was Kim Ji-yun, growing up in Seoul, Korea. The next day she was Catherine Jeanne Robinson, living with her new American family in Salt Lake City, Utah. Twenty years later, Katy Robinson returned to Seoul in search of her birth mother--and found herself an American outsider in her native land. What transpired in this world--at once familiar and strange, comforting and sad--left Katy conflicted, shattered, exhilarated, and moved in ways she never imagined.

A Single Square Picture is a personal odyssey that ascends to the universal, a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever questioned their place in the world--and had the courage to find the answers.

Author Biography: Katy Robinson is an award-winning journalist and speaker on adoption issues.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Katy Robinson. Berkley, $13.95 paper (304p) ISBN 0-425-18496-X "One day I was Kim Ji-yun growing up in Seoul, Korea; the next day I was Catherine Jeanne Robinson living in Salt Lake City, Utah." So begins this memoir from first-time author Robinson. Her tireless search for her birth parents is driven by her memories of them and the photo referred to in the title, a snapshot of Kim Ji-yun with her mother and grandmother taken only moments before the seven-year-old boarded a plane bound for Salt Lake City. Even memoir-saturated readers will be drawn in by her description of this devastating leave-taking: "[My grandmother] hands me a roll of my favorite crackers and the folder of paper dolls my mother bought me after our last trip to the bathhouse. She gives me a slight push forward... I do as instructed and follow the blue cap and clicking heels away from my mother and grandmother." When Robinson returns to Seoul as an adult (having spent a happy if monotonous childhood in Utah), she easily reconnects with her father and half-siblings. But the trail to her mother turns cold several times before Robinson realizes that she may never know for sure whether her mother died in a car accident or relocated to Chicago. Meanwhile, she struggles to bridge the massive cultural gap separating her from her father. She ultimately decides that her true family consists of her patient American husband and her spunky adoptive mother. Fortunately, the journey to this unsurprising conclusion is a fascinating labor of love, populated by oddball relatives and fueled by banquets of carefully described Korean food. (Aug. 6) Forecast: Readers of Helie Lee's In the Absence of the Sun (Forecasts, Apr. 1) and other Asian-American homecoming memoirs will gravitate to this. Robinson's tale is more accessible than Lee's, however, and the paperback price could make it an attractive reading club choice. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Luminously written, sensitively nuanced memoir by Idaho-based journalist Robinson about the rediscovery of her Korean family. Adopted as a seven-year old by Americans, the author loved her new mother, but growing up in Utah, the only Asian in her school, she felt cut off from her roots. Mixing memories of her American childhood with accounts of her present activities, Robinson describes how, on a business trip to Seoul 20 years after she left, she decided to look for her birth family. She had a photograph of her mother and grandmother taken at the airport before she left, a few memories, and little else to guide her. At the orphanage that arranged her adoption, she learned that her father was still alive, though now in his 70s. They met briefly; he shared photos and memories and told her she was his favorite child. Pleased by his response, Robinson arranged to spend a year at Korea University with her husband. Her father was very protective of the couple, but his daughter’s feelings fluctuated as she learned more about him. He was a notorious womanizer; Kim Ji-yun (Robinson’s Korean name) was the result of an affair with her mother while he was married with young children; and he had more children with the woman he married after that affair. Robinson met an elder half-brother and -sister, offspring of his first marriage, and his first wife made the American feel at home though she disliked her ex-husband. Learning the truth about her mother was difficult; family members told different stories, so Robinson didn’t know whether she was dead or married and living in Chicago. Though she had hoped solving the mystery of her family would be easier, the author leaves comforted by the connectionsshe’s made and accepting of her mother’s decision to have her adopted. Robinson vividly describes contrasts between cultures as she realistically details a quest inevitably complicated by the contradictions and contrariness of human nature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425184967
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/6/2002
  • Edition description: BERKLEY TR
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.82 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2008

    A Korean adoptees MUST READ

    All people who have a connection to adoption, especially Korean adoption should read this book. If you are interested in different cultures, read this book. It would have been GREAT if it would have turned out differently at the end and of course it would have been greater in real life if the beginning were different! But it is a wonderful book, well written book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2003

    Fascinating Journey

    A book about a Korean adoptee growing up in Utah seemed to me to be the last thing that a Southern Californian would enjoy. I was very wrong. Ms. Robinson takes us along on her fascinating journey to find her roots and we truly feel as if we were right there with her. We share in her excitements as well as her despare. We are embroiled in mysteries and childhood fantasies. And our hearts race with anticipations and break with disappointments as doors are opened and then slammed shut. All the while we are introduced to an ancient and proud culture that is Korea. We also learn what it is like to be uprooted as a seven year old girl from the warm and loving arms of a mother and grandmother and whisked away to a society that could not be more diffent than her own. To be a little Korean girl raised in Utah had to have been very difficult. Ms Robinson delivers this story with the skill of the accomplished journalist which she is. She is able to bring us along with her and allow us to see what she sees through our own eyes. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys a good book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2002

    A Great Classroom Resource

    "A Single Square Picture" by Katy Robinson is wonderful memoir. Ms. Robinson shares her story of adoption and her return to Korea to find and possibly establish a relationship with her biological father as well as to search for her birth mother. This story is a great experience for any reader, young or old. As a classroom teacher, I have found it a great way to guide my students to an understanding of different cultures, families, and more importantly, themselves. Each student seems to have taken part of the story and identified with it. What a gift!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2002

    A very touching memoir

    Having an interest in adoption and a heart for adoptees, I was completely engaged in the author's story of her life. This book is well written, provoking a wide range of emotions. I especially appreciated the author's candor, realizing that the book was probably difficult to write. If you have time, I also recommend an article titled "Seoul Searching" by Rick Reilly in Time magazine (8/28/2000: 42-44).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2002

    Beautifully composed, with broad appeal...

    This memoir is riveting, emotionally draining, and punctuated with humor. The writer skillfully and beautifully tells the story of her adoption at age 7 and her return to Korea to establish a relationship with her biological father and to search for her birth mother. But her story has parallels to anyone's life, regardless of adoption status or country of origin. It will have a lasting impact on any reader who has had a less-than-perfect relationship with a family member. Ms. Robinson's writing talent is obvious throughout the book, as she skillfully weaves flashbacks from her first seven years in Korea and her childhood in the U.S., with the discovery of her Korean family as an adult. Her ability to portray the characters, dialogue, and Korean culture with such realism and subtle skill is equal to that of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. Not only is her story fascinating, but she knows how to tell it. The author has given a tremendous gift to society by so artfully sharing her history and its impact on her emotional development.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2002

    A Beautiful Book

    This is a beautifully written book. It's also as riveting as any ficticious mystery story, with Katy, who was adopted at the age of seven and sent from Korea to live in Salt Lake City, following all sorts of false leads in her attempt to obtain correct information about the fate of her birth mother from her birth father and his children. It was very hard for me to put this book down - I even was sneaking looks at it at work when the boss was otherwise occupied. And I wish the very, very best for Katy in her continuing search for the truth of her origins. Hopefully there will be a sequel to this book in the near future!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2002

    An amazing story!

    This is such a wonderful story, I truly read it in a day. I absolutely could not put it down. As a fellow adoptee who is about to reunite with her biological family in Korea, I feel so fortunate to know that there are so many resources out there for me to read and learn from. Thank you for sharing your experiences Katy, best of luck in the future.

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