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Crying in H Mart
Cover of Crying in H Mart
Crying in H Mart
A Memoir
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, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
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, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover 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 connected by silver steel frames. The building is...
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-
  • AudioFile Magazine Author Michelle Zauner's quiet, measured narration matches the graceful power of her prose in this poignant memoir about her mother's life and death. She writes about their complicated relationship, her Korean-American identity, the uneven terrain of grief, and, perhaps most vividly, food. There's a beautiful sureness to her narration throughout, but her voice comes alive when she's describing food: the Korean dishes her mother cooked, learning to make kimchi after her mother's death, her painful attempts to enjoy a meal out with her father in the midst of their grief. By turns funny, heartbreaking, and self-reflective, this poignant memoir captures all the messy truths of a mother-daughter relationship. Zauner's musical voice--warm, steady, and brimming over with emotion--will slide straight into listeners' hearts. L.S. � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from July 1, 2021

    As the daughter of an American father and a Korean mother, Zauner had an Oregon upbringing that was both typically American and undeniably Korean. From an early age, Zauner enjoyed her mother's spicy, aromatic Korean fare; it wasn't until adulthood that she realized that her mother's unique way of expressing love was by preparing particular Korean dishes. As a child and teen, Zauner felt cheated of the cuddly nurturing love that her friends received from their mothers; eventually she chose to attend college on the East Coast, hoping to break free from her mother's control. Zauner was at loose ends until she was confronted by the reality of her mother's cancer diagnosis, after which she threw herself headfirst into researching the disease, caring for her mother, and learning to prepare the particular Korean dishes that her mother might find appetizing. Neither medicine nor Zauner's nourishing cooking was able to save her mother's life, but the journey to the end brought Zauner close to her Korean roots. It also inspired Psychopomp, Zauner's first album under the name Japanese Breakfast (her solo musical project). Zauner herself narrates the audiobook, giving it emotional heft, as well as correct pronunciation of the Korean terms and foods that play pivotal roles. VERDICT This memoir of loss and identity is both personal and universal. Essential for public libraries.--Ann Weber, Bellarmine Coll. Prep., San Jose, CA.

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • 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.

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A Memoir
Michelle Zauner
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