Book Reviews

 

Marijane Huang’s journey in search of her birth family and her “rediscovery” of newfound cultural roots is one of the most captivating and moving stories you will ever read. When we first featured excerpts of her story as it was unfolding, it instantly became one of the most shared and talked-about articles throughout our community.
In the 2nd generation Taiwanese American community, we are all too familiar with stories of personal struggle as individuals come to terms with their bi-cultural identity and sense of belonging in America. The exploration of our parents’ experiences is often the foundation from which the answers to our questions can be found. But, what happens when all of your assumptions about family and identity are turned upside down? The revelations from Huang’s adoption story and how she deals with each piece of new and sometimes shocking information sheds important light on how much our past and present relationships, as well as our desire to know from where we come, continue to shape who we are today. It’s an excellent reminder that truth and reconciliation are essential in achieving ultimate fulfillment in our lives moving forward.

Beyond Two Worlds is an unforgettable testament to family history through the eyes of an adoptee with a life full of experiences. Marijane Huang’s story–both a nail-biting thriller and tearjerker drama… if a personal memoir could ever be described as such–is a must-read for anyone who has ever contemplated the importance of family, lineage, and the strengthened sense of identity they give us through the generations.

 Ho Chie Tsai, Founder of TaiwaneseAmerican.org, a website highlighting the amazing stories of Taiwanese America


Finished the book in 5 hours! From start to finish, Marijane Huang’s story pulls you in for a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, cried, and sometimes even both at the same time! Beyond Two Worlds is a beautifully written memoir about a very real, and relatable human being in search of answers – only to find new questions at every turn. The short, succinct chapters are packed with memories and orchestrated in a way that weave her childhood recollections with today’s introspection. And at the same time, we get to know the author and her family and friends more and more throughout the book. For example, at times in the book, I was upset with her mother’s behavior, and other times, I was 100% sympathetic. More importantly, Marijane illustrates each person in her life so well, it makes us want to know more about them, ask them questions, and just give them a hug. This is the kind of person we find out that Marijane is – a curious, inquisitive, and loving individual who reflects herself so well in writing that we end up feeling the exact same way. As an adoptee from Asia myself, I can relate with many parts of the book. In fact, all of the questions that Marijane presents, most adoptees have asked. Those questions are tied to deep level insecurities, abandonment, and hope. But this book is for anyone. The hope and persistence will inspire you to keep going, especially when you are ready to give up. Feeling alone and heartbroken? This book shows us that there are people in the world waiting to meet us. And for myself, Beyond Two Worlds, makes me proud to be who I am today knowing that I can embrace every part of me unapologetically and that there will always be more questions, more to learn about ourselves.

Andrew Adams, Adoptee, S. Korea


What deeper messages do titles convey? That’s a question that arises as I contemplate a powerful poignant book I just finished reading, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity by Marijane Huang. I read this work from a unique perspective as an Ojibwe scholar who has studied the history of Indian child welfare, as a descendant of a culture that has survived despite centuries of Native American child removal policies. I reflected on Huang’s experiences as a daughter who witnessed the deep emotional scars my Ojibwe mother carried as a result of the joyless, demeaning years she spent in a Catholic Indian boarding school. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the topic of child removal, particularly adoption, triggers so many thoughts and memories for me.

Huang speaks of the “primal wound” adoptees suffer due to “multiple losses, the most significant being the loss of the adoptee’s birth mother, but also that of culture, language, and original family” (p. xvi). Removing children from their families, communities, and nations causes harm on many levels and can be viewed as a powerful form of ethnocide. Huang’s account hints at the life-long suffering of her birth mother and family of origin because her father made choices he felt necessary in a context that wasn’t supportive of children and families.

Huang’s courage to confront her fear of the unknown and her tenacity to keep moving forward despite so many obstacles are deeply inspiring. It wasn’t too late for her to reconnect to her original cultural legacy and some of the family that she lost as an infant. Her honest, gracious, and moving narrative brought me inside her experiences. She brought me inside her feelings as she discovered her adoption papers when she was in her 40s and learned of her heritage for the first time. And I felt as though I stood with her in the Taiwan airport anxiously awaiting her first meeting with her two older sisters who had last seen Huang as an infant.

Huang’s healing journey brings joy and tears. I’m grateful for the chance I had to travel along with her. Her first book ends with a powerful realization.

Without a doubt, the reunion with my birth family has been one of the most significant, life-altering events of my life. (p. 159).

Learning to see the world through different cultural lenses is always s gift, and Huang does such a powerful job taking us beyond two profoundly different cultural worlds to see both the importance of being in touch with our cultural roots and the human bonds that connect us across cultures.

I hope Huang will have an opportunity to return to Taiwan and eagerly await her next book.

Carol A. Hand, BS, MSSW, PhD, Lecturer, The College of St. Scholastica SW satellite at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, and adoptee


The pages turned themselves as readers can accompany the author on her particular journey of self-discovery–all a part of the universal human quest towards connection to others and understanding. Her writing presents itself with a refreshing clarity that not only captures both the glaring and subtle differences between the East (Taiwan) and West (The United States), but also expresses the vast possibilities of life found in an orientation towards others and shared humanity.

— Ted Liebler, Adult Services & Programming Librarian, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, Arizona


I thoroughly enjoyed reading Marijane’s book, Beyond Two Worlds. With the turn of each page, I felt like I was right there alongside of her on her journey to uncover her true identify. Her writing is descriptive, honest, concise and enjoyable. The book reads like a mystery novel and is filled with suspense. I highly recommend this book.

— Diane Mitchell, international adoptive parent, Bend, OR


Beautifully written! So often, the search and reunion experience for international adoptees is isolating and wordless. As a reader, I felt like I was with the author in the waiting, joy and uncertainty. Stories like these need to be heard!

– Katie Naftzger, LICSW, adoptee & author of Parenting in the Eye of the Storm, Newton, MA

What a captivating and beautifully written adoption memoir! Engaging, heartwarming and suspenseful…I could not put this book down. Marijane drew me into her desperate search for identity with poignant descriptions of growing up without answers to life’s most basic questions. This is one woman’s honest and vulnerable story of longing, heartbreak, perseverance and joy. I highly recommend this book for anyone touched by adoption – professionals, adoptive parents, adoptees, as well as their family and friends.

– Jennifer Oei, Foster Case Manager, Orange, California