Ghost of Sangju

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Ghost of Sangju takes readers through Soojung Jo’s childhood in Kentucky filled with joy, family, friendship—and the loneliness of being marked as an outsider even in her own home. Alternating between humor and heartbreak, she offers a glimpse into a life foreign to most: that of a West Point cadet and her return to South Korea, the country that had once sent her away. Soojung vividly paints a portrait of marriage, parenthood (as both a biological and adoptive mother) and the tumultuous emotions of reuniting, rediscovering, and reestablishing lost familial bonds. Ghost of Sangju is a story of one woman’s journey to merge her two selves, and the universal search for self-discovery, identity, and reconciliation.


Praise for Ghost of Sangju

“Soojung Jo has a written a book that is honest, riveting, and at points, incredibly heartbreaking. Early on, Soojung reveals that as a child, she wasn’t sure if she was real or not real; one gets the sense that Ghost of Sangju is a testimony, a demonstration to both the world and herself that she is, in fact, extremely real, that her experiences and history are important to chronicle. If decades of literature have hidden adoptee stories such as Soojung’s from view, with this brave memoir she has firmly asserted that her narrative, and others like it, can no longer be ignored.” – Karissa Chen, Fiction & Poetry Editor, Hyphen

“Soojung Jo is trying to create an urtext with Ghost of Sangju, the urtext of her identity. She is trying to take control of the act of making. The reader has the sense that this is the book Jo has always been writing and always will write, and yet that it is a book she could only have written after reuniting with her Korean family. It is no mistake that I read in these pages the same comparison to the velveteen rabbit made real by love that I myself have expressed as an adoptee parent. This is a narrative that will bring an adoptee to tears, that closes in on the “primal” state Jo is interested in.” – Matthew Salesses, author of The Hundred-Year Flood

“Soojung Jo writes with clarity, wisdom, and the bravery required to fully illuminate the human condition. This is a brilliant and cinematic debut, heart-wrenching and triumphant, liberating and expansive. From Kentucky to South Korea, from West Point to parenthood, from anger and grief to healing and joy, this is a vital contribution to adoption and American literature. This is an exciting and beautiful new voice.” – Lee Herrick, author of Gardening Secrets of the Dead 

“This memoir by Soojung Jo offers a most unique perspective on adoption through the singular lens of a daughter, adoptee, wife, birth mother, and adoptive mother. She finds a way to tell her story with humor, a sharp wit, heartbreaking vulnerability, and unflinching honesty. It’s thrilling and necessary to have this beautiful memoir added to the ever growing adoption narrative.” – Randy Reyes, Artist Director, Mu Performing Arts

“Ghost of Sangju is a valuable contribution to the adoptee-memoir canon, and I recommend that adoption professionals and prospective adoptive parents in particular read this book. It might be difficult to read and tempting to discount Soojung and her omma’s story as only one story; it is one story, but it resonates because it is, in fact, many of our stories. It is time that these narratives are honored and validated, so that birth families and adoptees do not have to exist, as Soojung writes, as “a spirit suspended between two worlds and two families, to be forever in between.”” – Dr. JaeRan Kim (Read her entire review here.)

Ghost of Sangju should be required reading for all Asian Americans because it is the kind of story that is bigger than just Soojung Jo. It is a story of identity. It speaks to the heart of the struggle for all people of color who live in a country where—just because of the way they look—are considered perpetual foreigners.” – Koji Steven Sakai, Screenwriter/Producer and Vice President of Programs, Japanese American National Museum (Read his entire review here.)

“Soojung shares her truth with authenticity.  She employs a razor sharp wit and presents the complex realities of the adoption experience with integrity for herself and those around her.” – April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive, The Donaldson Adoption Institute

Ghost of Sangju: A Memoir of Reconciliation is a book about more than adoption, of course. It’s about a basic human need and right: to understand who we truly are.” – Maureen McCauley Evans, Light of Day Stories (Read her entire review here.)