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  • Lilly Schmaltz

Book Review: 'Crying in H Mart' by Michelle Zauner

Michelle Zauner recounts when she put her life on hold to fly home and care for her mother. As a woman in her mid-20s, Zauner was forced into a role no child wishes themselves to be in. Zauner’s mother eventually succumbed to cancer and Zauner continued a journey of struggling with her Korean-American identity that was now compounded with loss and grief. "Crying In H Mart" is a gripping memoir about family, loss, identity, and how food can connect you to what you love most. 


I began reading "Crying In H Mart" knowing that it would be heavy and thought-provoking. While I am not biracial, I resonated with many of Zauner’s sentiments about culture and identity. She struggled with the language and did not know how to cook the food. When caring for her mother, Zauner began experimenting with Korean recipes to try and kickstart her mother’s fading appetite. The cancer and chemotherapies meant her mother could not eat more than a few bites, but Zauner understood and recognized that this food was a significant connection to her mother and her Korean heritage.


Zauner detailed the decline of her mother’s health and weaved in anecdotes of visits with relatives, the rise of her music career, and the beginnings of her relationship and eventual marriage. The passages are gritty and Zauner does not sugarcoat anything. Her vulnerability and authenticity forced me to put the book down several times to take a breather. I took several weeks to read it even though the memoir moves at a nice pace. Despite her mother’s death being the ultimate event that underlies the events in the memoir, we read about it two-thirds of the way through and then watch how Zauner processes the grief and continues the work to connect with her Korean heritage.


While I don’t want to “review” Zauner’s life and experiences, I can say "Crying In H Mart" was a phenomenal memoir that was both heartbreaking and hopeful. I cried with Zauner as she struggled and grieved and confronted my own challenges with self-acceptance and being between two cultures. This book is a must-read and will have everyone resonating with the experiences of mother and child depicted in the pages.


 

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