13 Mar Reviewing ‘Crying in H Mart’ by Michelle Zauner
I went into this one not knowing what to expect as I’d been seeing it on every book channel on social media and what struck me was that people who I really do love following and whose recommendations I take to heart, really loved this one. After all the rave reviews, it felt a no-brainer.
About the 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, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
Crying in H Mart does what it says on the cover and it’s powerful. Maybe it wasn’t Zauner’s intention but, beyond that power, there’s a kind of magic to this book that makes it hypnotising. I was utterly mesmerised from the first line. Crying in H Mart doesn’t have the cheeriest of themes – it’s this love letter, a means of coping with losing one’s mother, that anchor in every woman’s childhood and life. While this was a quick read for a theme so deeply personal and sad, at the heart of this little artichoke of a book, you find these themes that just pierce you to your core: tradition, identity, motherhood, love, family (the complexities of that), race, belonging, childhood, food and history – and Crying in H Mart explores these themes in varying degrees.
Zauner’s writing is incredible, unlike anything I’ve encountered before. She brings you in with descriptions of food so vivid you’d swear you could taste it, and smells which somehow seem to lift off the page. You’re there, ready to feel the truth of losing your mother, and everything else that comes in tow. The raw honesty of writing about your parent’s flaws, of listing them and putting them on display has a way of showing you where you fall as an adult because of their mistakes and decisions.
This is a wonderful, honest memoir. One that I’d absolutely recommend to anyone for its uncanny beauty.
5 out of 5 stars