• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Zauner takes unflinching looks at her family, herself, and her future, all while exploring the rich flavors, traditions, and challenges of the Korean meals intertwined with her identity and her past.

I listened to this memoir, written and read by Michelle Zauner (of the band Japanese Breakfast).

Crying in H Mart felt like a complicated, layered love letter to Zauner's mother, who is dying of colorectal cancer over the course of the book.

“For the rest of my life there would be a splinter in my being, stinging from the moment my mother died until it was buried with me.”

Crying in H Mart is also an exploration of the author's Korean-American heritage, her feelings of being caught between two cultures, and, largely, her deep and growing connection to Korean food. Zauner delves into her intense love for the complex flavors, the frequently time-consuming and sometimes meditative preparations required, and her many emotional associations with certain dishes.

As her knowledge of cooking techniques and their links to tradition grows, Zauner feels increasingly capable of providing touch points for her mother--whether this takes the dietary forms of Korean comfort foods when sick; customary milestone meals; or passable everyday versions of the foods that have long sustained her mother and herself.

Zauner also digs into her often difficult relationship with her father, her fears that after her mother dies she and her father will no longer feel connected, her choice to build her own family by marrying, and how impossible it seems that she could ever consider herself fully seen without her mother as a mirror.

This is beautiful, painful, and evocative. Zauner takes unflinching looks at her life, choices, and feelings. Her story is compelling and intriguing, whether or not you're familiar with her or her indie band.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Zauner's 2018 New Yorker essay mentioned the title of this book and led to this work.

Side note: I'd like a sequel about her band life, her husband's role in it, her take on the music business, and more, please.