cover image A SINGLE SQUARE PICTURE: A Korean Adoptee's Search for Her Roots

A SINGLE SQUARE PICTURE: A Korean Adoptee's Search for Her Roots

Katy Robinson, . . Berkley, $13.95 (297pp) ISBN 978-0-425-18496-7

"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.