Cover image for Somebody's daughter
Somebody's daughter
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, c2005.
Physical Description:
x, 264 p. ; 23 cm.
Geographic Term:
Adopted and raised by Scandinavian-American parents in Minnesota, a Korean teenager returns to her native country to find her mother.


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Adopted and raised by Scandinavian-American parents in Minnesota, a Korean teenager returns to her native country to find her mother.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Young adult novelist Lee (Finding My Voice, etc.) explores a Korean-born girl's complicated journey to define her identity in her poignant adult debut. Adopted by a white Minnesota family who tried to quash any curiosity Sarah Thorson might have about her homeland, the directionless 20-year-old drops out of college and enrolls in a Korean-language program in Seoul. As she struggles to fit in, she recognizes her desire to learn about her birth family, and she's shocked to learn that she was abandoned as a baby (she'd been told her parents died in a car accident). With the help of her new boyfriend, Korean-American Doug, who educates her about her homeland and its citizens ("Cut open a Korean and... you'll find: salt and hot red peppers," he tells her over a meal of spicy soup), she goes on a Korean TV show dedicated to finding missing persons. When a woman comes forward, the two begin to form a bond, but a DNA test proves them unrelated. Meanwhile, Lee spins out the parallel story line of Sarah's birth mother: Kyung-Sook had dreams of pursuing a career in Korean folk music, but she fell for an American hippie who abandoned her once she became pregnant. Now 50, Kyung-Sook sees Sarah on TV and comes to Seoul to find her. Lee sidesteps a tender emotional reunion, though, in favor of an honest portrayal of a mother's sacrifice and a daughter's growth. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

All her life, Korea-born Lee Soon-Min has been told that her biological parents were killed in an automobile crash. (As an infant, she was adopted by a repressive but well-meaning midwestern couple who renamed her Sarah). In truth, Sarah was abandoned on the steps of a Seoul firehouse soon after her mother, penniless and jilted by her American lover, gave birth. When Sarah, now 19, travels to Korea, she becomes obsessed with discovering the truth about her past. She studies Korean, visits the agency that orchestrated her adoption, even broadcasts her predicament on a local television show. The author's use of alternating narrators keeps the plot in high gear, as the paths of mother and daughter seem destined to converge. Her colorful characters crackle and pop off the page: a restaurant owner with a rosary of farts trailing out from between her thick thighs and a malaprop-spewing Korean soldier who suggests that an emotionally troubled peer see a shrimp. Lee, a Korean American, has earned critical acclaim for her books for young adults, including Finding My Voice (1992). Here she renders a grown-up gem of a novel where joy mingles with sorrow, and heartbreak is laced with hope. --Allison Block Copyright 2005 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Nineteen-year-old Sarah was raised in Minnesota but born in Korea. She struggles with the reality of having two mothers: the one who gave her away and the one who adopted her. She enrolls in a yearlong exchange program at Chosun University in Seoul to learn Korean and discover her roots. In alternating chapters, readers learn about her birth mother, and about the circumstances surrounding Sarah's birth and adoption. The stories eventually converge, but the main theme of the novel is how mother and daughter each struggle with grief and acceptance. The most interesting parts of this book are the descriptions of Korea as told through Sarah's first-person narrative. Nothing has prepared her for how truly foreign she would find the country. Doug, another student, introduces her to the foods and customs of Korea and joins in her search. He also becomes her lover. Somebody's Daughter will appeal to teens with an interest in multicultural issues, especially cross-racial adoption. But it can also be read for its vivid portrait of the country. Lee's portrayal of rural villages, a bustling modern city, and the people who have preserved their heritage in the face of civil war is strong and memorable.-Sheila Janega, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Young-adult author Lee follows a Korean American woman, adopted as a baby by an American family, to her homeland to learn the language and find her birth mother. Korean by ethnicity but American to the core culturally, Sarah Thorson is almost 20 when she announces that for her graduation trip she wants to go to Korea. Her worried, blue-eyed parents of Eden's Prairie, Minnesota, tell her: "You don't have to do this to yourself." As part of the Motherland Program at Chosun University in Seoul, Sarah joins other Korean American students who are trying to mold an identity--except that Sarah, whose name sounds like "child for purchase" in Korean, doesn't know a word of the language, can't even communicate to buy something to eat. While she is making new friends--like Jun-Ho, a Korean soldier at the Balzac CafÉ, whose malapropisms charm her; and the Korean-American Doug, in her program, who becomes her protective boyfriend--there emerges a mirror narrative concerning the life of a woman who might or might not be Sarah's birth mother. Kyung-Sook has been selling shrimp at the market in Enduring Pine Village for 20 years, married to a man who didn't sire the daughter she gave up for adoption in 1972. Lee's story is an unflinching examination of identity, as Sarah continually asks who she is: the Fabulous Sarah of her high-school years? Or a Korean "Twinkie," yellow on the outside, white on the inside? The other students are derisive, asking whether the majority of Koreans in the States can trace "their way back to some Korean whore who hooked up with a GI"? The dual narratives are effective, though the plotting tends to get heavily scripted, as Sarah, for example, appears on a TV show about missing persons, and ends up playing the same kind of flute, the taegum, that Kyung-Sook once played. Nonetheless, Lee's first adult outing is an authentic, emotionally powerful portrayal of two cultures. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

The author of four YA novels, including Finding My Voice and Saying Goodbye, Lee has now written a beautiful story for adults. It is the tale of two women: Sarah Thorson, a young Korean American college student who had been adopted by a couple in Minnesota; and Kyung-Sook, an older Korean woman living in the village of Enduring Pine. Their parallel stories intertwine slowly as the reader discovers that Kyung-Sook is Sarah's birth mother. It is Sarah's mission in Korea to find her, but the two pass each other at Chosun University. Told with grace and elegance, this novel shows a wonderful talent at work. Lee is a gifted writer who has composed a stirring, heartfelt tale without sentimentality that will appeal to many readers. Highly recommended for all libraries, particularly those interested in Korean culture.-Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.