It is no secret that I love a good memoir. What I love even more is if the memoir is raw, visceral and honest. And even more if the audio is narrated by the author themselves. All of this played into why I loved Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. Michelle Zauner is the singer and guitarist for the indie band Japanese Breakfast. Born to a Korean mother and an American father, Zauner grew up grappling with where she fit in between her two cultures. She shared a love of food with her mother, which bridged the cultural and generational divides between mother and daughter. At the young age of 25, Zauner's mother passed away from cancer. Her memoir is a portrayal of a daughter's love and the complex mother/daughter relationship they shared.
Crying in H Mart is heavy, grief laden, and strangely, will leave you feeling hungry and craving Korean food. I'm not exaggerating when I say that after finishing, I went on a Google search for authentic Korean food near me and plan on trying Bibimbap. I also dug up the YouTube account that Zauner frequently mentions in her memoir, Cooking Korean Food with Maangchi. She found comfort in her recipes after her mother passed away and carries her mother's memory in all her cooking.
As an individual who has a very difficult, complex and distant relationship with my mother, this memoir was a tough one to read. While part of me connected with Zauner in her accounts of feeling disconnected from her mother as a child and their tumultuous relationship in her teenage years, I had a difficult time reading about her mother's final months and how much of a caretaker Zauner became. I think it is important to be aware that Crying in H Mart is a very honest portrayal of caring for someone in their final days and the toll that cancer has on a body. Because of this, it could be very triggering for some readers.
After finishing this audiobook, I can be found wiping my tears away and diving into a hot dish of bibimbap or jatjuk (pine nut porridge.) Until then...
4.5 - 5 stars
“Some of the earliest memories I can recall are of my mother instructing me to always “save ten percent of yourself.” What she meant was that, no matter how much you thought you loved someone, or thought they loved you, you never gave all of yourself. Save 10 percent, always, so there was something to fall back on.”
"Save your tears for when your mother dies."
“Food was how my mother expressed her love. No matter how critical or cruel she could seem—constantly pushing me to meet her intractable expectations—I could always feel her affection radiating from the lunches she packed and the meals she prepared for me just the way I liked them.”