Crying In H Mart | Michelle Zauner

Books | Review

non-fiction | memoir | biography

First published 2021

The title of this memoir is a reference to a chain of supermarkets in the US that specialises in Asian products. Michelle Zauner was born to a Korean mother and an American father, and as one of the only Asian American kids at her school in Oregon, she struggled with her identity and her mother's high expectations of her. She recalls the summers spent at her grandmother's flat in Seoul, being introduced to the Korean speciailities that would come to define so many of the memories she has of her mother.

Zauner moves away to Philadelphia for college and to pursue her dream of becoming a musician despite her mother's disapproval. When Zauner is twenty-five, her mum is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the book then follows the author's reckoning with her identity and attempts at reclaiming the Koreanness she feels she has lost. Her mother and her embark on a journey of rediscovery, centered around the Korean food they both love and the descriptions of which will have your mouth watering.

Shortly after Zauner marries Peter, a man she met at college in Philadelphia, her mother dies. After the funeral and a trip to Vietnam with her father, she and Peter move to New York. She finds unexpected success with an album she writes about her mother, titled PsychopompThe album garners a  lot of positive interest and good reviews and allows Zauner to quit her job at an advertising agency and go touring. The last night of the tour is in Seoul where her maternal aunt and her husband attend.

My Verdict: This is a very sad and, at times, quite difficult book to read; there is grief filling every page and sentence, only broken up with mouth-watering descriptions of Korean food. The pain of losing a parent and the ravages of cancer could not be better or more beautifully described, but it is not a book that leaves you feeling light afterwards - which is the whole point, I imagine. Although she manages to find her own way and some peace in the end, I don't know if I would recommend this book to many people - it should come with a trigger warning!

Rating Award - 3.5/5

Posted 23.08.2022

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