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Book Rec: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Updated: Apr 9

“In fact, she was both my first and second words: Umma, then Mom. I called to her in two languages. Even then I must have known that no one would ever love me as much as she would.”

Love, loss, and kimchi.

book jacket of Crying in H MArt with noodles hanging between two chopsticks

From the indie rock star of Japanese Breakfast fame, Crying in H Mart is a powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mom and forging her own identity.

With humor and heart, Michelle Zauner 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 Korean-ness 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 25, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Crying in H Mart Discussion Guide

  1. Zauner writes “my mother was always trying to shape me into the most perfect version of myself.” What does this trait reveal about her mother and her parenting style? In what ways can you relate?

  2. This book has a way of bringing you into local Korean life. How has it shaped the way you think of the Korean (or Asian at large) community in your town? How has their life differed from your own?

  3. Zauner’s story depicts the real-world grief of caregiving for someone terminally ill. Have you been in her shoes? How can you relate to her guilt and grief?

  4. Food is a prominent motif in her memoir. How does it join her family and loved ones? Which foods were most memorable? Does her description of Korean cuisine entice you to try new things?

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Sep 15, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Several relatable topics!!

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