Photo Illustration: Save As / Medium; Photo courtesy of Sun Yung Shin

‘A Wolf in the Shell’: Life as a Korean Adoptee Is an Existential Condition

Raised by white Americans, poet Sun Yung Shin meditates on child abandonment, secrets, and fate through the famed Oedipus myth

Sun Yung Shin
#StopAsianHate
Published in
8 min readMay 20, 2021

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“A creature that hides and ‘withdraws into its shell,’ is preparing a ‘way out.’ This is true of the entire scale of metaphors, from the resurrection of a man in his grave, to the sudden outburst of one who has long been silent. If we remain at the heart of the image under consideration, we have the impression that, by staying in the motionlessness of its shell, the creature is preparing temporal explosions, not to say whirlwinds, of being.” —Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

“Wolves in shells are crueler than stray ones.” —Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Catastrophe means an event causing great and often sudden damage or suffering; a disaster. It is a turn from what is expected. It is from the Greek kata “down” plus strephein “turn.”

I am a member of the world’s largest diaspora of adopted children. We have been expelled from our home country, South Korea, our homeland, the Korean peninsula, since 1954. It is 2021, and, though in greatly reduced numbers, we are still part of the downturn. I have an adopted Korean American…

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Sun Yung Shin
#StopAsianHate

MAT, MFA. Writer, poet, editor, bodyworker, gardener. She/they. Author or editor of nine books, plus three forthcoming in 2024 and 2025. www.sunyungshin.com