Book Review of Michelle Zauner: Crying in H Mart
Michelle Zauner from the band Japanese Breakfast is a rockstar, although headlining festivals and isn’t the only thing she pours her heart into. After writing her memoir Crying in H Mart, Zauner is now a world-famous New York Times Best-Selling author.
Crying in H Mart is Michelle Zauner’s sometimes heartbreaking personal memoir. It brings readers on an often emotional journey, covering themes of identity, grief, and her mother’s cooking. Zauner explores her youth, growing up as a Korean American in the state of Oregon to the loss of her mother as an adult. Zauner’s memoir is as honest and evocative as fans would expect from such a voice of a generation.
From the first page, you realize the scope of Zauner’s ability to express her feelings about her life and the people in it. As you bounce between childhood memories and time grieving as an adult, you can’t help but pick up on the emotional weight each page delivers.
Zauner tackles the difficulties of assimilating into the largely white community she grew up in. On top of that, are her experiences in Korea, with her mother’s family. Zauner expresses what it’s like being half white and half Korean and balancing between the two worlds.
Another major theme of Crying in H Mart is grief. Throughout the book, Zauner deals with the emotions she experiences while losing her mother to cancer. Like her lyrics in her albums, the passages about coming to terms with death and inevitable loss pull tears out of anyone who reads them. On top of her grieving process and her very open journey of healing, she deals with the grieving experience of her father. Zauner is able to bring her readers through the complex and personal experience of grief and how different people confront it.
As Zauner relates her readers to these very intimate experiences and feelings, she seamlessly weaves food into her narration. Food acts as a bridge between her past and present and is used as a tool to connect her readers to her upbringing and culture. Vivid descriptions of mouth-watering Korean staples are described in rich detail as if Zauner is an award-winning food writer. Her readers will feel like they are tasting and smelling these dishes beside her. Zauner’s passion for food is undeniable. Within a few chapters, food slowly becomes a metaphor for her own healing and connection to her mother. Zauner told NPR, “I think for my mom, every time I ate in a very Korean way, it sort of reminded her, like, that’s my kid.”
Even though Zauner’s story is incredibly personal, anyone who’s experienced feelings of cultural discovery, grief, and connection through food will find plenty of reasons not to put Crying in H Mart down. At its core, Zauner’s memoir is a powerful reminder that you can find healing and understanding of who you are in the most human of all creations: food.
If you’re looking for a tear-jerking journey through food, grief, and self-discovery, Crying in H Mart is the perfect read. As she ends her book, Michelle Zauner tells her readers the importance of falling in love with the food that tells their story. And for Zauner, it’s the comfort food of her mother. As she ends with a loving ode to making Kimchi, she lets her readers heal with her, ending a non-stop journey of tear-jerking moments, deep dives into food, and personal tales of dealing with grief and coming to terms with who we are.