I will judge a book by its cover and I will not be made ashamed thank you very much. As much as we all love a good rant, here I will talk about book covers that I think are particularly good and why they’re good. As with almost everything on this blog, there will be a good deal of spoilers in these posts as good covers will always tell us something about the book they’re advertising. In the end, covers are advertising and if you don’t have a good cover it’ll be harder, but not impossible, to sell people on your book. Alright, let’s get to it!
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I love the cover for All You Can Ever Know; though it is a little on the nose (family tree)—After reading the book, I thought the cover was appropriate, especially if you know a bit about trees. Which I happen thanks to my trusty seminary education (I just went for a little bit). I love trees in general just because they are so symbolic and they display such simple, natural beauty. But I think the most interesting part of this cover is the main and most obvious part of the cover; that there’s a small tree branch that has been broken off from the main plant. I think it’s a natural choice given that the subject of the book is adoption and the way we create our own families.
Chung’s connection to her birth family was very much like this small, almost broken off tree branch. It was fragile and almost impercievable. She didn’t know much about her birth family, only that they were Korean like her. There were such small parts connecting them together: the lawyer from all those years ago and their shared Korean heritage; but nevertheless they were still connected. As this is the center of the book, it makes sense that the first thing you notice about the cover is the splintered tree branch.
Fun fact: trees can get diseased just like people, and all living things, can. When trees are having a hard time (like they won’t produce any fruit, this is particularly common with olive trees) or a brach breaks, people will do things to try and revive them. There’s a lot of different things you can do, but a common one is called “grafting”. Grafting is when you splinter or tie* a tree branch onto the tree. In theory, the tree accepts the branch and it becomes part of the trees as if it grew naturally from the tree. This often helps with bearing fruit and you can even put like a plum branch on an apple tree (as long as they’re in the same family). In a way, Nicole Chung’s grafted herself back to into her birth family’s family tree.
*it’s a lot more complex than this, folks. I’m just going to simplify it for this post or we’ll be here forever.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but I rather like the symbolism. She is with them and of them, but also comes from completely different experiences and culture than her. There’s a certain kind of rightness in seeing a tree full of fruit, and a certain kind of rightness in Chung’s story at knowing where she came from.