Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Reviewed by GGGinny
What I drank: This should surprise nobody, because I’ve been on a real kick recently, but setlzers again. I’m sorry, the blackberry hibiscus is super floral and way more enjoyable than I would have thought.
NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A Best Book of 2021:Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, Wall Street Journal, and more
From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.
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.
Drunk Overview: Michelle had been through rough years with her mother before a cancer diagnosis. Michelle set aside her artistic pursuits to care for her ailing mother. And this is an autobiography, so not fiction. But this book is love story to her mother, Korean culture, and food.
Drunk Thoughts: The way this book talked about food meant I was constantly hungry. Also, I’m sure I knew this when I added the book to my TBR, but the author is also the person behind Japanese Breakfast (the band) which meant she named her album in this book and I was like “that sounds familiar”
- I feel like I;ve fallen into this pattern of books that have interesting takes on grief. This book goes into family history, the care of dealing with an ill parent, and the grieving process afterwards. It’s heavy, but also lovely.
- Seriously, the food descriptions in this book were amazing.
- But I also highly relate to using food as a way to portray that people matter. I’ve always loved feeding people, so when Michelle talks about certain flavors bringing back intense memories I related so hard.
- Although if I say that, I have to mention that a lot of this book hit really hard.
- The discussions about being a mixed child in a relatively small place, the way cancer can ravange an entire family, how grief can break a familly. It’s so hard.
- This book also talks a lot about the hard decisions that come up. Should you get married so your sick family can be at the wedding, do you invite the person who comforts your ill family member even if they exclude your actual family? When all is said and done, how do you honor their memories?
- It might just be me, but I feel like a lot of media expectss us to just “get over it.” and that may be me, but in so many movies or tv shows, grief is short due to the plot of the next episode or act. (I’m thinking of the marvel movies where certain character deaths are barely referenced while others get massive funerals)…
- I feel like writing this book was a part of the grieving project as much as the Japanese Breakfast album was.
- It was a way of sharing her mother with the world, helping her memory live on. And I think that’s beautiful.
- Again, the subject matter is dark so I don’t think this is a book I could recommend to too many people, but I think for those grieving a loved one, this could be a comforting book.
- That being said, there were a few things I think could have been adjusted. The boyfriend/husband was barely included outside of the wedding and I would have loved if a bit more of the relationship had been included (I recognize that these are real people and they have the right to their own privacy, which I respect. From a story standpoint, I think it came a little out of the blue, and I personally would have appreciated knowing Michelle had a better safety network that I gleaned from the book).
- This may sound bad, considering the book is amout Michelle, but I would have liked a little more about her mother’s life too. I worry that her mother was lonely, especially given some information about Michelle’s father.
What I’d Pair it With: Ben and Jerry’s and a bottle of wine with no glass. Again, this book was heavy, and I think having a coping mechanism of your choice with this book would be a good idea.