01 Sep / A Single Square Picture: A Korean Adoptee’s Search for Her Roots by Katy Robinson + Author Profile [in KoreAm Journal]
BOISIE, IDAHO — In 1977 at the age of 7, Kim Ji-yun left Seoul and arrived in Salt Lake City to become Catherine Jeanne Robinson. One square Polaroid captures the day when Ji-yun’s life was changed forever: her mother’s worried face, her grandmother’s stoic silence and her own childish, silly smile.
Robinson’s debut book, A Single Square Picture: A Korean Adoptee’s Search for Her Roots, poignantly captures her journey from Korea to her adopted country, back to Korea and home again. Already the reviews from two important literary journals are glowing: Kirkus Review calls it a “[l]uminously written, sensitively nuanced memoir,” while Publishers Weekly refers to it as “a fascinating labor of love.” The book is also the non-fiction selection for the Chicago Tribune’s summer reading club.
As Catherine Jeanne, or Katy as she was called, Robinson grew up culturally isolated. “In my new home, there was no face that mirrored my own,” she writes. While she found happiness and comfort with her new family, especially her new mother, she says, “It was like my Korean identity and past were wiped away when I landed in America, and I had to do all of the questioning and searching on my own as an adult.”
After high school, Robinson, who was desperate to leave Salt Lake City, headed west to Santa Clara University in California. “It ended up being a great choice … because of the large Asian American student population and the proximity to the Bay Area,” she says.
“I had little contact with Asian Americans before I went to college, so it was a bit of a shock. It made me confront my own identity for the first time.” She adds, “SCU was also a good choice because I met my husband, John, there — during a Zen meditation class!”
Robinson’s search for identity led her into a career in journalism. “I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. I felt that my experience as an adoptee and often the only Asian gave me insight to become a reporter — to recognize that things aren’t always as they appear.” She eventually landed a job at The Idaho Statesman in Boise, where her husband’s family lives — and where, she insists, the local Korean restaurant keeps her well supplied with kimchee. But in spite of her personal and professional success, the questions of a 7-year-old still lingered.
Twenty years after she left Seoul, Robinson returned to Korea to search for her birth mother. Her adoptive mother, Sue Robinson, was both supportive and fearful. …[click here for more]
Readers: Young Adult, Adult