Reviews for Crying In H Mart

by Michelle Zauner

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A poignant memoir about a mothers love as told through Korean food.Losing a parent is one thing, but to also lose direct ties to ones culture in the process is its own tragedy. In this expansion of her popular 2018 New Yorker essay, Zauner, best known as the founder of indie rock group Japanese Breakfast, grapples with what it means to be severed from her Korean heritage following her mothers battle with cancer. In an attempt to honor and remember her umma, the author sought to replicate the flavors of her upbringing. Throughout, the author delivers mouthwatering descriptions of dishes like pajeon, jatjuk, and gimbap, and her storytelling is fluid, honest, and intimate. Aptly, Zauner frames her story amid the aisles of H Mart, a place many Asian Americans will recognize, a setting that allows the author to situate her personal story as part of a broader conversation about diasporic culture, a powerful force that eludes ownership. The memoir will feel familiar to children of immigrants, whose complicated relationships to family are often paralleled by equally strenuous relationships with their food. It will also resonate with a larger audience due to the authors validation of the different ways that parents can show their loveif not verbally, then certainly through their ability to nourish. I wanted to embody a physical warningthat if she began to disappear, I would disappear too, writes Zauner as she discusses the deterioration of her mothers health, when both stopped eating. When a loved one dies, we search all of our senses for signs of their presence. Zauners ability to let us in through taste makes her book stand out from others with similar themes. She makes us feel like we are in her mothers kitchen, singing her praises.A tender, well-rendered, heart-wrenching account of the way food ties us to those who have passed. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Based on the viral 2018 New Yorker essay of the same name, this debut by Zauner is an exceptionally vivid memoir that deftly explores the complex relationships between culture and family, mothers and daughters. The details of Zauner's mother's illness and death, as well as their devastating impact on the author, make for gut-wrenching reading, but it's hard to put this book down. The author holds nothing back as she navigates her adolescent search to understand her identity, made more complex by her biracial background. She's particularly open about her evolving relationship with her mother. Much of the book follows her mother's cancer diagnosis and Zauner's efforts to care for her. Threaded throughout the narrative are musings on food and culture, and the role of food in helping us to build connections and memories—however difficult at times— with family. The details and cultural references here are particular to Zauner's life, but her account contains so many all-too-common experiences of grief and endurance that it will resonate with just about everyone. VERDICT Zauner has created a memoir that is distinctly her own, but it will leave a mark on anyone who reads it—a mark that will not soon be forgotten.—Sarah Schroeder, Univ. of Washington Bothell


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Readers will sense years of reflection built into every sentence of musician Zauner’s debut memoir, which began as a 2018 New Yorker article. After losing her mom to rapidly advancing cancer when Zauner was in her midtwenties, the author finds herself in an Asian supermarket chain, devastated that she can’t call her mom for shopping advice or eat with her in the bustling food court. Zauner restores her mother in her vibrancy here, as a collector of knickknacks and face creams, an amazing cook who eschewed recipes, a loyal protector of her family. Zauner recalls trips to visit family in Korea, where she and her mother were both born, and moments during her adolescence that felt cruel at the time, but seem obviously born out of love in retrospect. As Zauner lives through her shocking grief, food binds her to her mother, as it always did, and in meditative paragraphs she shares her therapeutic experiences making jatjuk and kimchi. This is a beautiful, forthright memoir about the bewildering loss of a parent, and the complicated process of finding one’s art.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

A singer/guitarist who performs shoegaze-inspired indie pop under the name Japanese Breakfast, Zauner recalls being the only Asian American in her school in Eugene, OR, then progressing to an East Coast college, a career, and marriage, getting the life she wanted yet moving away from her Korean identity. Her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer brought her home. Spun from a 2018 New Yorker essay that went viral.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Musician Zauner debuts with an earnest account of her Korean-American upbringing, musical career, and the aftermath of her mother’s death. She opens with a memory of a visit to an Asian American supermarket, where, among fellow shoppers who were “searching for a piece of home, or a piece of ourselves,” Zauner was able to grieve the death of her mother, Chongmi, with whom she had a difficult relationship. Her white American father met her mother in Seoul in 1983, and Zauner immigrated as an infant to Eugene, Ore. In Zauner’s teenage years in the late 2000s, Chongmi vehemently opposed Zauner’s musical dreams and, in one outburst, admitted to having an abortion after Zauner’s birth “because you were such a terrible child!” The confession caused a rift that lasted almost six years, until Zauner learned of her mother’s cancer diagnosis. After Chongmi’s death in 2014, Zauner’s career took off, and during a sold-out concert in Seoul, Zauner writes, she realized her success “revolved around death, that the songs... memorialized her.” The prose is lyrical if at times overwrought, but Zauner does a good job capturing the grief of losing a parent with pathos. Fans looking to get a glimpse into the inner life of this megawatt pop star will not be disappointed. (Apr.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A poignant memoir about a mother’s love as told through Korean food. Losing a parent is one thing, but to also lose direct ties to one’s culture in the process is its own tragedy. In this expansion of her popular 2018 New Yorker essay, Zauner, best known as the founder of indie rock group Japanese Breakfast, grapples with what it means to be severed from her Korean heritage following her mother’s battle with cancer. In an attempt to honor and remember her umma, the author sought to replicate the flavors of her upbringing. Throughout, the author delivers mouthwatering descriptions of dishes like pajeon, jatjuk, and gimbap, and her storytelling is fluid, honest, and intimate. Aptly, Zauner frames her story amid the aisles of H Mart, a place many Asian Americans will recognize, a setting that allows the author to situate her personal story as part of a broader conversation about diasporic culture, a powerful force that eludes ownership. The memoir will feel familiar to children of immigrants, whose complicated relationships to family are often paralleled by equally strenuous relationships with their food. It will also resonate with a larger audience due to the author’s validation of the different ways that parents can show their love—if not verbally, then certainly through their ability to nourish. “I wanted to embody a physical warning—that if she began to disappear, I would disappear too,” writes Zauner as she discusses the deterioration of her mother’s health, when both stopped eating. When a loved one dies, we search all of our senses for signs of their presence. Zauner’s ability to let us in through taste makes her book stand out from others with similar themes. She makes us feel like we are in her mother’s kitchen, singing her praises. A tender, well-rendered, heart-wrenching account of the way food ties us to those who have passed. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

As the daughter of an American father and a Korean mother, Zauner had an Oregon upbringing that was both typically American and undeniably Korean. From an early age, Zauner enjoyed her mother's spicy, aromatic Korean fare; it wasn't until adulthood that she realized that her mother's unique way of expressing love was by preparing particular Korean dishes. As a child and teen, Zauner felt cheated of the cuddly nurturing love that her friends received from their mothers; eventually she chose to attend college on the East Coast, hoping to break free from her mother's control. Zauner was at loose ends until she was confronted by the reality of her mother's cancer diagnosis, after which she threw herself headfirst into researching the disease, caring for her mother, and learning to prepare the particular Korean dishes that her mother might find appetizing. Neither medicine nor Zauner's nourishing cooking was able to save her mother's life, but the journey to the end brought Zauner close to her Korean roots. It also inspired Psychopomp, Zauner's first album under the name Japanese Breakfast (her solo musical project). Zauner herself narrates the audiobook, giving it emotional heft, as well as correct pronunciation of the Korean terms and foods that play pivotal roles. VERDICT This memoir of loss and identity is both personal and universal. Essential for public libraries.—Ann Weber, Bellarmine Coll. Prep., San Jose, CA.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Readers will sense years of reflection built into every sentence of musician Zauner’s debut memoir, which began as a 2018 New Yorker article. After losing her mom to rapidly advancing cancer when Zauner was in her midtwenties, the author finds herself in an Asian supermarket chain, devastated that she can’t call her mom for shopping advice or eat with her in the bustling food court. Zauner restores her mother in her vibrancy here, as a collector of knickknacks and face creams, an amazing cook who eschewed recipes, a loyal protector of her family. Zauner recalls trips to visit family in Korea, where she and her mother were both born, and moments during her adolescence that felt cruel at the time, but seem obviously born out of love in retrospect. As Zauner lives through her shocking grief, food binds her to her mother, as it always did, and in meditative paragraphs she shares her therapeutic experiences making jatjuk and kimchi. This is a beautiful, forthright memoir about the bewildering loss of a parent, and the complicated process of finding one’s art.

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