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Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related.

A Memoir
Written by: Jenny Heijun Wills
Narrated by: Diana Bang
Length: 4 hrs and 59 mins
4 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction

A beautiful and haunting memoir of kinship and culture rediscovered.

Jenny Heijun Wills was born in Korea and adopted as an infant into a white family in small-town Canada. In her late 20s, she reconnected with her first family and returned to Seoul where she spent four months getting to know other adoptees, as well as her Korean mother, father, siblings, and extended family. At the guesthouse for transnational adoptees where she lived, alliances were troubled by violence and fraught with the trauma of separation and of cultural illiteracy. Unsurprisingly, heartbreakingly, Wills found that her nascent relationships with her family were similarly fraught. 

Ten years later, Wills sustains close ties with her Korean family. Her Korean parents and her younger sister attended her wedding in Montreal, and that same sister now lives in Canada. Remarkably, meeting Jenny caused her birth parents to reunite after having been estranged since her adoption. Little by little, Jenny Heijun Wills is learning and relearning her stories and those of her biological kin, piecing together a fragmented life into something resembling a whole. 

Delving into gender, class, racial, and ethnic complexities, as well as into the complex relationships between Korean women - sisters, mothers and daughters, grandmothers and grandchildren, aunts and nieces - Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. describes in visceral, lyrical prose the painful ripple effects that follow a child's removal from a family, and the rewards that can flow from both struggle and forgiveness.

©2019 Jenny Heijun Wills (P)2019 McClelland & Stewart

What the critics say

“One of the most courageous, moving and achingly beautiful memoirs I’ve ever read. Jenny Heijun Wills brings uniquely to voice the complex emotional landscapes of transnational adoption. Her book represents an urgent and wide-reaching social question in the most luminously intimate terms." (David Chariandy, author of Brother)

“Adoption is a complex, provocative issue. Mix it with differences in race, nationality, and culture, and adoption becomes volatile. Jenny Heijun Wills is exactly the person we need to write about this volatility. Smart, critical, and edgy, Wills brings a sensitive, historically informed, and intersectional consciousness to this topic. The result is an urgent and necessary book.” (Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer)

"Jenny Heijun Wills has no interest in easy answers or comforting fictions. She sees herself and the world around her with an unsparing, incisive clarity, rendering her experiences in their full complexity, horror, and beauty. Older Sister is a memoir of lasting power, a vivid and intimate story of urgent, far-reaching consequence." (Kim Fu, author of The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Captivating

Enjoyed this story very much. Was whisked away to her world with ease. The way the story read was different but I really enjoyed the back and forth from story to questions for her sister gave a different angle.

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Awesome...and Educational

I was hoping to get an education from this story and I wasn’t disappointed. This is real life! I loved the way Ms. Bang narrated as well. I suggest that anyone that is looking to adopt outside of their own country to give Jenny’s book a read. This is one that I will go back to again and again.

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Adoption Story

Is a fairly dark portrayal of international adoption. A common familiar story these days from a group of individuals adopted 30 plus years ago. I had to take breaks from this audio book as the largely negative portrayal of international adoption was hard to take. It would have been nice to hear about some of her positive experiences with her adopted family. Fortunately, as families of adoptees embrace their children’s country of origin and culture, younger adoptees seem to have more positive attitudes towards international adoption.