I make it a point to read books by Portland authors, and when I heard about Crying in H Mart from another bookseller at Powell’s, their recommendation prompted me to put this book on the top of my stack. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience Michelle Zauner’s beautiful story about her experiences growing up as one of the few Asian Americans in Eugene, Oregon, as well as her travels to Korea to see her grandmother and family. It is the intimacy she offers about her relationship with her mother, as a child and later as a young adult assisting with her terminal cancer care, that made me feel extremely privileged to read the book. Recommended By Kim S., Powells.com
I have been surprised in more ways than one by Crying in H Mart. In terms of grief, death, and dying, Michelle Zauner has provided an intimate dive into the torment of slowly losing her mother to terminal cancer. The anxious, crushing sensation of anticipating death brought me to tears. The way in which she describes each and every event will devastate you. In terms of Asian American identity, it's a masterpiece on that front, too. She knows what it's like to be a perpetual foreigner. She knows the stress of having family as your major, if not only, link to your culture and heritage; and the pain of somehow believing you have less claim to your identity than you actually do. The entire book can speak to the experience of having your identity stained with trauma. This book is a profound expression of love. Recommended By Jun L., Powells.com
At one point in her memoir, Michelle Zauner describes the quick ascent of her band Japanese Breakfast as “suspiciously charmed.” Any reader who has made it that far knows there’s nothing suspicious about it. Crying in H Mart is a skillfully written and deeply moving portrait of Zauner’s mother and their close, and at times strained, relationship. It is also a rumination on cultural distance and the power of food to bridge the gap — it is a book that induces empathy for grief and hunger for Korean cuisine in nearly equal measure. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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 25, 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.
“I read Crying in H Mart with my heart in my throat. In this beautifully written memoir, Michelle Zauner has created a gripping, sensuous portrait of an indelible mother-daughter bond that hits all the notes: love, friction, loyalty, grief. All mothers and daughters will recognize themselves — and each other — in these pages.” Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance
“Crying in H Mart is a wonder: A beautiful, deeply moving coming-of-age story about mothers and daughters, love and grief, food and identity. It blew me away, even as it broke my heart.” Adrienne Brodeur, author of Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me
“The book’s descriptions of jjigae, tteokbokki, and other Korean delicacies stand out as tokens of the deep, all-encompassing love between Zauner and her mother...in a time when people around the world are reckoning with untold loss due to COVID-19, Zauner’s frankness around death feels like an unexpected yet deeply necessary gift." Vogue
Watch the Powell’s virtual event with Michelle Zauner and Ben Gibbard!
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).