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Crying in H Mart
Cover of Crying in H Mart
Crying in H Mart
A Memoir
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.
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.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book 18
     
    Maangchi and Me
     
     
    Whenever Mom had a dream about shit, she would buy a scratch card.
     
    In the morning, on the drive to school, she’d pull wordlessly into the 7-Eleven parking lot and tell me to wait while she kept the car running.
     
    “What are you doing?”
     
    “Don’t worry about it,” she said, grabbing her purse from the back seat.
     
    “What are you going to buy at the 7-Eleven?”
     
    “I’ll tell you later.”
     
    Then she’d come back with a handful of scratch cards. We’d drive the last few blocks to school, and she’d scrub off the gummy film with a coin on the dashboard.
     
    “You had a poop dream, didn’t you?”
     
    “Umma won ten dollars!” she’d say. “I couldn’t tell you because then it doesn’t work!”
     
    Dreams about pigs, the president, or shaking hands with a celebrity were all good-luck
    dreams—but it was shit in particular, especially if you touched it, that was license to gamble.
    Every time I had a dream about shit, I couldn’t wait to ask my mom to buy me a scratch card. I’d wake up from a dream about accidentally shitting my pants or walking into a public bathroom to find some extraordinarily long, winding shit, and when it was time to drive to school I’d sit quietly in the passenger seat, hardly able to contain myself until we were a block away from the
    7-Eleven on Willamette Street.
     
    “Mom, pull over,” I’d say. “I’ll tell you why later.”
     
     
     
    Shortly after we returned to the States, I started having recurring dreams about my mother. I’d suffered one such episode before, when I was a paranoid kid, morbidly obsessed with my par­ents’ deaths. My father is driving us across Ferry Street Bridge and to skirt traffic up ahead, he maneuvers the car onto the shoulder, weaving through a gap under construction and aiming to vault off the bridge onto a platform below. Eyes focused on the mark, he leans in close to the steering wheel and accelerates, but we miss the landing by several feet. The car plunges into the rushing current of the Willamette River and I wake up breathing heavily.
     
    Later, when we were teenagers, Nicole told me a story she’d heard from her mother about a woman who suffered from recur­ring nightmares that all revolved around the same car accident. The dreams were so vivid and traumatic that she sought a therapist to help her overcome them. “What if, after the accident, you try to get somewhere,” the therapist suggested. “Maybe if you try to get yourself to a hospital or some kind of safe place, the dream will reach a natural conclusion.” So each night the woman began to will herself out of the car and crawl further and further along the side of the highway. But the dream kept coming back. One day the woman really did get into a car accident and was supposedly found dragging herself across the asphalt in an attempt to reach some nebulous location, unable to distinguish reality from her lucid dreaming.
     
     
     
    The dreams about my mother had small variations, but ulti­mately they were always the same. My mother would appear, still alive but incapacitated, left behind someplace we had forgotten her.
     
    In one I’m alone, sitting on a well-manicured lawn on a warm, sunny day. In the distance I can see a dark and ominous glass house. It looks modern, the exterior made up entirely of black glass windows...
About the Author-
  • MICHELLE ZAUNER is best known as a singer and guitarist who creates dreamy, shoegaze-inspired indie pop under the name Japanese Breakfast. She has won acclaim from major music outlets around the world for releases like Psychopomp (2016) and Soft Sounds from Another Planet (2017).
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 11, 2021
    Musician Zauner debuts with an earnest account of her Korean-American upbringing, musical career, and the aftermath of her mother’s death. She opens with a memory of a visit to an Asian American supermarket, where, among fellow shoppers who were “searching for a piece of home, or a piece of ourselves,” Zauner was able to grieve the death of her mother, Chongmi, with whom she had a difficult relationship. Her white American father met her mother in Seoul in 1983, and Zauner immigrated as an infant to Eugene, Ore. In Zauner’s teenage years in the late 2000s, Chongmi vehemently opposed Zauner’s musical dreams and, in one outburst, admitted to having an abortion after Zauner’s birth “because you were such a terrible child!” The confession caused a rift that lasted almost six years, until Zauner learned of her mother’s cancer diagnosis. After Chongmi’s death in 2014, Zauner’s career took off, and during a sold-out concert in Seoul, Zauner writes, she realized her success “revolved around death, that the songs... memorialized her.” The prose is lyrical if at times overwrought, but Zauner does a good job capturing the grief of losing a parent with pathos. Fans looking to get a glimpse into the inner life of this megawatt pop star will not be disappointed.

  • Booklist

    March 1, 2021
    Readers will sense years of reflection built into every sentence of musician Zauner's debut memoir, which began as a 2018 New Yorker article. After losing her mom to rapidly advancing cancer when Zauner was in her midtwenties, the author finds herself in an Asian supermarket chain, devastated that she can't call her mom for shopping advice or eat with her in the bustling food court. Zauner restores her mother in her vibrancy here, as a collector of knickknacks and face creams, an amazing cook who eschewed recipes, a loyal protector of her family. Zauner recalls trips to visit family in Korea, where she and her mother were both born, and moments during her adolescence that felt cruel at the time, but seem obviously born out of love in retrospect. As Zauner lives through her shocking grief, food binds her to her mother, as it always did, and in meditative paragraphs she shares her therapeutic experiences making jatjuk and kimchi. This is a beautiful, forthright memoir about the bewildering loss of a parent, and the complicated process of finding one's art.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2021
    A poignant memoir about a mother's love as told through Korean food. Losing a parent is one thing, but to also lose direct ties to one's culture in the process is its own tragedy. In this expansion of her popular 2018 New Yorker essay, Zauner, best known as the founder of indie rock group Japanese Breakfast, grapples with what it means to be severed from her Korean heritage following her mother's battle with cancer. In an attempt to honor and remember her umma, the author sought to replicate the flavors of her upbringing. Throughout, the author delivers mouthwatering descriptions of dishes like pajeon, jatjuk, and gimbap, and her storytelling is fluid, honest, and intimate. Aptly, Zauner frames her story amid the aisles of H Mart, a place many Asian Americans will recognize, a setting that allows the author to situate her personal story as part of a broader conversation about diasporic culture, a powerful force that eludes ownership. The memoir will feel familiar to children of immigrants, whose complicated relationships to family are often paralleled by equally strenuous relationships with their food. It will also resonate with a larger audience due to the author's validation of the different ways that parents can show their love--if not verbally, then certainly through their ability to nourish. "I wanted to embody a physical warning--that if she began to disappear, I would disappear too," writes Zauner as she discusses the deterioration of her mother's health, when both stopped eating. When a loved one dies, we search all of our senses for signs of their presence. Zauner's ability to let us in through taste makes her book stand out from others with similar themes. She makes us feel like we are in her mother's kitchen, singing her praises. A tender, well-rendered, heart-wrenching account of the way food ties us to those who have passed.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2021

    Based on the viral 2018 New Yorker essay of the same name, this debut by Zauner is an exceptionally vivid memoir that deftly explores the complex relationships between culture and family, mothers and daughters. The details of Zauner's mother's illness and death, as well as their devastating impact on the author, make for gut-wrenching reading, but it's hard to put this book down. The author holds nothing back as she navigates her adolescent search to understand her identity, made more complex by her biracial background. She's particularly open about her evolving relationship with her mother. Much of the book follows her mother's cancer diagnosis and Zauner's efforts to care for her. Threaded throughout the narrative are musings on food and culture, and the role of food in helping us to build connections and memories--however difficult at times-- with family. The details and cultural references here are particular to Zauner's life, but her account contains so many all-too-common experiences of grief and endurance that it will resonate with just about everyone. VERDICT Zauner has created a memoir that is distinctly her own, but it will leave a mark on anyone who reads it--a mark that will not soon be forgotten.--Sarah Schroeder, Univ. of Washington Bothell

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Memoir
Michelle Zauner
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