News that her mother was terminally ill brought Michelle Zauner—who had been building a following as a musician under the name Japanese Breakfast—back to her childhood home in Oregon. As she recounts in this frank memoir, it was the beginning of a long process of picking up the lost threads of her heritage as the daughter of a Korean immigrant.
“Food was how my mother expressed her love,” Zauner notes. It was a constant in their relationship, but not a panacea for the conflicts between them, some of them the inevitable tensions between parent and child, and others the result of differences in dreams and fears.
Crying in H Mart is inextricably tied to the Korean culture of Zauner’s mother and Zauner’s own Korean-American experience. But Zauner’s grief, detailed here with vivid spareness, is also universally human, whether she’s trying to recreate the food her mother made for her by watching a YouTube video, visiting a restaurant in Seoul, or “sobbing by the dry goods, asking myself, am I even Korean any more if there’s no one left to call and ask which brand of seaweed we used to buy.”