Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner

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Skyscraper buildings alongside green foliage as people stroll sidewalk next to river.
Stroll in Seoul, South Korea
H Mart groceries and more signage.
H Mart Storefront, Arizona

H Mart
Where you can get imported Korean goods

Aloe Juice
One of my favorite drinks

Drink display aisle inside H Mart.
Drink Display Aisle Inside H Mart
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Synopsis

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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Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this so much! It’s really a special book. I enjoyed it as an audiobook, narrated by the author herself which I’d highly recommend. I appreciated perspective and nuance in that way. I’d recommend it to anyone and would be great for book clubs and Korean culture discussion.

The Story
It’s sort of a memory keepsake of deeply experiential life events in author perspective with some very specific outward perception, in which details told no matter how minute or largely impactful they may be to readers who might share or be less familiar with the themes and tradition. I quite appreciated that. It was very relatable, especially the embracing of multi-race, multi-ethnic, multi-nationality outlook and the journey to discovering belonging, community, vulnerability, and strength.

I loved the open, honest ability to just tell everything how it is from Korean mother to ajumma, noraebang to subtle cultural modestly, and of course all the delicious food.

The food inclusion deserves its own accolades which depicted the most intricate details and close ties to Korean tradition from snack and ceremonial, to celebration and illness.

I loved how it navigated the complexities of this particular mother-daughter relationship and the author’s relationship to the world. Growth and maturity, regression, and memory recall.

The Writing
First person POV and very accessible.

It wasn’t completely chronological which made for good flow for the timeline overall since stories were sometimes connected by subject matter, theme, mood, and emotion instead of strict order of time which made the reading experience full and complete with satisfying anticipation.

I loved the straightforward style and all the details that were included without being overly descriptive.

The food descriptions were more elaborate, including all the senses, customs, memory association, and the transition of emotions that accompanied each dish. Everything from Bibimbap to samgyeopsal.

I will look forward to more from this author. A cookbook would be lovely.

View all my reviews

Little girl in blue dress and pink backpack with stockings playfully running from daddy on street sidewalk.
Daddy and Daugher, South Korea
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Pastries display inside store.
Paris Baguette Display Counters
Variety of pastries.
Gorgeous Paris Baguette Pastry Display
Multiple fancy decorated cakes inside glass display.
Paris Baguette Intricately Decorated Cakes

Paris Baguette, Seoul.

“Enjoy delicious pastries, warm breads, stunning cakes and expertly brewed drinks while feeling right at home.”

My favorite is the cheesecakes.

Vines climbing greenhouse windows, black and white photo.
Hanging Vines, South Korea

Have you read this one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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