Crying in H Mart: A Memoir

by: Michelle Zauner (0)

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the indie rock sensation known as Japanese Breakfast, an unforgettable memoir about family, food, grief, love, and growing up Korean American—“in losing her mother and cooking to bring her back to life, Zauner became herself” (NPR) • CELEBRATING OVER ONE YEAR ON THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER LIST

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band--and meeting the man who would become her husband--her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos,
Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

The Reviews

This is hard to explain. I am also Half Korean and Half White raised by my Korean Mother. I thought this book was a niche audience book but it touches and connects people through memory, love, loss and grief for their loved ones. The commonality of struggles of youth, untamed ambition and independence, the yearning for return of fond happier memories as we become older and realize our losses. The difference here for me as part of the niche audience is the specific cultural and ethnic aspects of being a second generation mixed race Korean Amerasian. I shared much of her problems with identity as a mixed race Korean. Many people with immigrant parents can relate to this story but this story was so specific for me. Certain aspects of the Korean Culture, some language involved but most of all……the food. The food is extremely important to any child of a mother born and raised in Korea. We are raised with it and bond with our families and Korean friends with it. Korean Food is extremely important socially. Her analogies with it and use of it in her grief to connect with better memories to recover from trauma were a genius part of her writing but also rang true for me. Where was this author for me 20 years ago? I NEVER had a book impact my life like this one has. I had a falling out with my Korean Mother and my sister and stopped communicating with them for two years until just this past year before I read the book. After reading the book it made all my grievances seem so petty in the grand scheme of things in life and had so many deep regrets. I had to call my mom and sister and tell them how much I loved and appreciated them. I sent them the book and now they understand and we’re so much closer because of it. I spent 8 years in the Army, 1 tour as an Army ER Nurse in Iraq, 2,5 years in Oncology and over 20 in ER and I thought I was tough…….but I cried like a baby through this book. I have sent this book to numerous friends. I couldn’t stop talking about this book and her music as well it was so good. Give the book to someone who may appreciate the book as a gift. A mother and daughter having trouble with eachother? Give the daughter the book first and see if anything changes. Friend’s mother passed of a terminal illness? This book can be very cathartic and comforting in the sharing of grief and memories. This book hit me like no other in my life.

I generally do not read non-fiction because my primary purpose for reading is escapism. I want to go places and meet people that are far removed from my reality- where I know there will always be a happy ending. So, when a trusted friend suggested Crying in H Mart, I put it on my TBR without reading the synopsis or any reviews. I needed a non-fiction book to to earn a badge for my Prime Reading Spring Challenge, so I decided that this book would check that particular box.I had absolutely no idea just how much I needed to read this emotionally raw and poignant memoir. I have no knowledge of what growing up half-asian child in America feels like. But, as a black child of emigrant parents, I can identify with the disenfranchisement and the longing to fit in which Michelle Zauner so eloquently describes in this novel. As a daughter of a Mother who was brutally honest and lovingly hypercritical, I understood this writer's point of view. As a child whose mother's love language was cooking and serving food to feed as well as heal the soul, I loved experiencing the gastronomic journey Michelle and Chongmi traveled. As an woman who has lost her mother to the beast that is cancer, I appreciated the way that this author laid her most brutally painful feelings and memories bare for us, more than Ms. Zauner will ever know.I found myself reading this book and crying in the booth at Starbucks, overwhelmed with emotions that were latent and unresolved in the almost four years since my mother's death. I felt seen and understood for the first time in so many ways.Michelle Zauner writes with blatant honesty, humor, and humility. Her prose is so lyrical that I found myself flipping back to the cover in oder to make sure I was indeed reading a memoir. Her words are all necessary and cathartic for those who have ever served as care-givers for a treminally ill person. Any one who has had their family dynamic devastated by an unexpected malignant medical diagnosis will appeciate the care and detail that is used by this writer to describe the complete eviscerated that occurs when a loved one succumbs to the ir battle with a terminal disease.Crying in H Mart is a testimony that life and love do not end with the loss of a loved one. It is a true life reminder that the transformative power of love exceeds the human capacity to demonstrate it in mortal ways. I will recommend this book to others because its relevance transcends time and any other parameters influenced when a loved one physically leaves us to live life without them.

In my humble opinion, I honestly believe the critical reviews of this book are just because this book wasn’t meant to resonate with them on a personal level. I don’t believe you need to be a foodie to read this book either. While Zauner never overly describes all the dishes her mother or family member prepares, google can send you down a wonderful Korean food hole if you need deeper insight and a slight break from the memoir if you need to truly get a grasp of what dishes she’s describing. It gives you a delightful peek into traditional Korean dishes that you might not have any idea about.As a bi-racial Asian American myself, there was a few parts of the book that completely hit home for me and made me feel seen. It also made me think really hard about several concepts I’d never thought about in life and how my children might view me as a mother once I’m gone.I don’t believe that Zauner ever resented her mother as some people mentioned, I think it takes a greater understanding into Asian culture and style of parenting to fully understand some of her points in the book.Overall, this was a heart breaking and heartwarming story to read and a great insight into Korean cuisine. My only critique would be it feels a little scattered in some areas where it took me a moment to figure out when and where in her timeline, events or moments were taking place, but overall I highly recommend!

Crying in H Mart: A Memoir
⭐ 4.4 💛 12844
kindle: $14.73
paperback: $9.00
hardcover: $8.28
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