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Crying in H Mart

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A memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

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 Koreanness 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 twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published April 20, 2021

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About the author

Michelle Zauner

1 book3,272 followers
Michelle Zauner is best known as a singer and guitarist who creates dreamy, shoegaze-inspired indie pop under the name Japanese Breakfast. She has won acclaim from major music outlets around the world for releases like Psychopomp (2016) and Soft Sounds from Another Planet (2017). Her memoir, Crying in H Mart, was released in 2021.

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5 stars
135,195 (46%)
4 stars
109,886 (37%)
3 stars
37,094 (12%)
2 stars
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1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 33,983 reviews
Profile Image for Sofia.
258 reviews6,437 followers
June 21, 2021
Crying in H Mart is my favorite book of all time. The quiet devastation, the raw emotion, the sheer wisdom inside its pages. It brought tears to my eyes practically every other page. I've never gone through such an emotional journey triggered by a book before. The sense of impending doom and the heavy sadness of each moment, the conflicting emotions and frank writing style, the haunting dialogue and the stunning descriptions of food. They all came together to form the perfect book.

This book is about the deep connection of food and the love between a mother and her child, even through hardship and pain and hurt feelings. I was on the verge of crying the entire time. I've never been more emotionally wrecked.

I remember these things clearly because that was how my mother loved you, not through white lies and constant verbal affirmation, but in subtle observations of what brought you joy, pocketed away to make you feel comforted and cared for without even realizing it.

Michelle had a troubled relationship with her mother. They were constantly at odds, and as she grew into a rebellious teenager, the gap between them only widened. She only began to realize how big of a role her mother had in her life when she was diagnosed with cancer. She could no longer take care of Michelle; Michelle had to take care of her. As the roles steadily reversed, Michelle found comfort in cooking traditional Korean food. It reminded her of her mother, their trips to Seoul, and the bond they shared.

But this book isn't just about a mother-daughter relationship. It isn't just about food. It's also an exploration of what it means to be multiracial in a world that wants to sort people into boxes. Korean or American? White or Asian?

I had spent my adolescence trying to blend in with my peers in suburban America, and had come of age feeling like my belonging was something to prove. Something that was always in the hands of other people to be given and never my own to take, to decide which side I was on, whom I was allowed to align with. I could never be of both worlds, only half in and half out, waiting to be ejected at will by someone with greater claim than me. Someone whole.

Crying in H Mart is the quiet, haunting, beautiful story of what and who we take for granted, and the little moments we never appreciate until they're gone. It left me so hollow in an exquisitely painful way. It made me appreciate my culture and my mother so much more. Especially since I felt closely connected to Michelle. I related to her in many ways. I felt like I was Michelle, which just made me cry even harder. The little nuggets of wisdom and humor brought this book to life.

When Crying in H Mart arrived at my doorstep, my first remark to my dad was that it smelled like ink and tears—the bitter scent of new ink, the almost-saltiness of fresh paper. We laughed it off, but while I was reading, I kept thinking about it. Ink and tears. Or rather, tears and ink. Heartbreak, depression, devastation. And then, out of an event so painful—creation. Zauner put pen to paper, and a masterpiece was written. She fled to music when the noise of her own spiraling thoughts became too much, and she found an escape that turned into a lifelong passion.

This book shattered me and then pieced me back together. I'm a different person, and I'm so grateful to the wonderful, talented Michelle Zauner for writing this absolutely perfect memoir.

In case you didn't know, Michelle is the lead singer of one of my favorite indie bands, Japanese Breakfast. My favorite of their albums is Soft Sounds From Another Planet, and my favorite two songs on that album are Boyish and The Body is a Blade. You should definitely check her out. Her music is beautiful.

EDIT: Actually, my favorite is Jubilee, which is one of the greatest albums of all time. It was released on June 4, 2021, and it's a masterpiece.

5 stars


This is my new favorite book of all time. It's absolutely devastating.
I would give anything to read this again for the first time.

Review to come
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews112k followers
May 3, 2021
It feels weird to rate this book, because while reading it, I felt like the book was not intended to be for anybody but the author herself. She dives into all the food associated with her culture and mother, and it feels very personal and uniquely hers. All of her descriptions and experiences are unabashedly Asian and I think many Asian-Americans will relate in some way. I also appreciate that she talked about the “ugly” sides of grief: not just the sadness with mourning, but moments of when she felt selfish and jealous over her mother’s other caretakers, arguments against her dad, etc.

I’m not rating this 5 stars since it didn’t *amaze* me as much as other memoirs have. The writing style is more plainspoken and I personally prefer more flourish to the writing to make a memoir unique (i.e. Know My Name, In the Dream House). The structure also isn’t as cohesive here and I think would have fared better as a series of essays rather than trying to be a continuous book.
Profile Image for Lucy Dacus.
91 reviews14.5k followers
April 3, 2021
I was worried I’d have some bias in favor of this book since Michelle is a pal, but I can confidently say that, by any metric, it’s incredible. Lots of tears, but some laughs too. It’s a bare and brutal memoir, full of truth and tenderness. Really a gift.
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews48.1k followers
August 25, 2022
Sometimes the reason everyone calls a book One Of The Best Books Of The Year is because it is.


Everyone gives it a five star rating because it's five star level. Everyone calls it buzzed-about because it's buzz-worthy. Everyone calls it the best of the genre in recent memory because that's obvious. (Celebrity memoir...not as competitive, but still.)

You'd think that'd always be the case, and you'd be wrong, but it doesn't matter because only this book does.

And on this book...the general populace is correct on all counts.

This is a searing, unique, gorgeously devastating, sometimes funny book that made me very hungry and very sad.

It made me want to listen to more Japanese Breakfast music and also regret the time she did a free show at my college and I had to miss it because I was taking a three-hour night class with no absences permitted.

I hope she keeps writing. But next time I will be prepared with a food-delivery app open and a big ass box of tissues.

Bottom line: I love a pleasant surprise. No comment on the fact that when everyone loves a book and I do too, that counts as a surprise.



review to come / 5 stars

currently-reading updates

trying to get a catharsis-cry out of this
Profile Image for Taylor Reid.
Author 26 books145k followers
January 20, 2022
In this intimate and evocative memoir, Michelle Zauner shares her experience growing up Korean American and how her mother’s cancer diagnosis sparked her to recover and embrace her history and culture. Its poignancy sneaks up on you. By the end, it packs a wallop. If you need a good cry, here it is.
Profile Image for Carol.
269 reviews8 followers
May 2, 2021
It pains me to not really like this memoir. I had such high expectations and I feel really guilty for not liking the story Michelle Zauner told. There were definitely beautiful moments, but overall I did not enjoy the writing or the way the story was told. I know I am definitely in the minority and that a lot of people like this book, so I would say to read it if you are intrigued by it. But, it did not work for me.
Profile Image for Em Swantree.
315 reviews12 followers
November 28, 2021
It is not that this book isn’t well written. It is. But I just wonder how critically acclaimed it would be if the author was not an indie pop star. It is a pretty boring story - I enjoyed some of the cultural things but overall it just seemed like a story of a young woman who struggled with her mom but they both loved each other. The writing feels like it was therapeutic for the author but that doesn’t mean it is really for a wider audience.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.3k followers
March 24, 2022
i feel like this book wasnt written for readers, but for MZ herself. its a cathartic exercise through grief and heartbreak and life. its extremely personal, which makes me not want to review this. but i genuinely hope it helped MZ work through her pain and sorrow.

im gonna go call my mom now.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,195 reviews40.6k followers
November 13, 2022
Absolutely it’s the right thing to vote for this book for Goodreads Choice Awards 2021.

I knew this book would be my ruin as soon as I read the opening. I knew I would cry my eyes out and kept thinking about that heart wrenching mother- daughter story for weeks because after devouring a few chapters, I already felt this was one of the books haunt you down, pushing out the feelings you kept inside, forcing you to confront with your own resentments about life and your own family. And I knew anyone who grabbed this book could easily resonate with the characters and think their own relationship patterns with his/ her own parents!

Michelle was only 25 when her mother lost her battle against the cancer. Do you think it’s young age or should she be thankful at least she was lucky enough to have her mother in her life for 25 years! But I deeply know: There’s no age to be an orphan or being older doesn’t give you more endurance to embrace your grief! It burns you, breaks you, hurts you!

Throughout their relationship: Michelle and her mother had so many ups and downs. Especially her adolescence years and early adulthood cannot be defined as happy and full filled. But now there’s a chance to make things right and heal some all wounds by flying to Oregon to nurse her mother through her final days!

This intense, emotional, thought provoking memoir reflects the complex nature of mother and daughter relationship with representing Korean culture, traditions, rituals, hierarchical patterns.

Michelle finally understands to see things from her mother’s perspective and realizes the importance of her life lessons.

It’s impossible not to be shaken to the core or not to feel the intense pain Michelle had as she said goodbye to her mother!

I think I’m choking… I have to stop… my vision is blurry! This book affected me so much more than I expected!

So I let the best quotes from book tell its story:

“It felt like the world had divided into two different types of people, those who had felt pain and those who had yet to.”

“There was no one in the world that was ever as critical or could make me feel as hideous as my mother, but there was no one, not even Peter, who ever made me feel as beautiful.”

“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.”

“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.”

“I had spent my adolescence trying to blend in with my peers in suburban America, and had come of age feeling like my belonging was something to prove. Something that was always in the hands of other people to be given and never my own to take, to decide which side I was on, whom I was allowed to align with. I could never be of both worlds, only half in and half out, waiting to be ejected at will by someone with greater claim than me. Someone whole.”

“Now that she was gone, I began to study her like a stranger, rooting around her belongings in an attempt to rediscover her, trying to bring her back to life in any way that I could. In my grief I was desperate to construe the slightest thing as a sign.”
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,002 reviews35.9k followers
March 27, 2022
Audiobook.....debut, read by the author: Michelle Zauner
7 hours and 23 minutes

As Dani Shapiro said....(an author I have a high opinion of),
“All Mothers in daughters will recognize themselves and each other—in these pages”!
AGREE! Amen!

“Crying in H Mart”....is perfectly seasoned with a spoonful of Korean scrupulosity, ......kimchi, and other Korean cuisine favorites.....
along with family (mother and daughter) staunchness, restraint, coolness, sturdiness, adherence, obedience, rebellion, attachment, restraint, respect....
with added flavors of Korean family values, traditional defines, dedication, hierarchy, lifestyle and cultural experiences,
.....[ Korean Bath Houses are a favorite self-care pleasure]....
I’ve been visiting our local Korean Spa for about thirty years myself. (love it).

Going deeper....
This is a heartbreaking memoir about a mother dying too young - a daughter that was not ready for her to die....
a daughter that wished to make up for every wrongdoing she ever did — desperately wishing to take it all back —make it up to her mom.
Michelle wanted be the daughter her mother wanted— before it was too late—-(wear the ugly skirt, etc.).... She eagerly wanted to help her mother with everything and anything she could.

I ached/and cried for how much grief Michelle felt.
Michelle was just starting to appreciate her mother’s wisdom, teachings, lessons, ...after years of struggling with their relationship.
But now terminal cancer was taking her away.
Heavy painful loss.

Michelle’s mother didn’t care much for sweets ...
but occasionally she enjoyed strawberry Häagen-Dazs ice cream....
I was reminded of when Paul’s great grandmother died — I loved her with all my heart too —she also loved strawberry Häagen-Dazs....
We made sure she had all she wanted - (which wasn’t much- no appetite left)....before she died.

Food & love was the secret principle ingredient, when faced with the dealings of loss & grief.

There is plenty of humor too......
and richness, (tons of sensory richness)......
Beautiful beautiful beautiful memoir.....
We fall in love with Michelle Zauner......( it’s impossible not too)

Michelle Zauner, the indie rockstar (new to me)....was pure pleasure to digest.

Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,014 reviews97 followers
June 15, 2021
This touching memoir written by Michelle Zauner is about growing up as a Korean-American in the United States, her sometimes complicated relationship with her parents, and her experience of losing her mom to advanced pancreatic cancer. After having a tumultuous relationship with her mother growing up, she wants to cure her mother and to heal their relationship. As she navigates through this difficult time feeling pain and grief, she uses Korean foods she holds dear to commemorate her mother by learning how to cook them, while reflecting on memories of her childhood.

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.

I first heard about this book on NPR and knew it was a memoir I couldn’t pass up. Cancer is something that has plagued my own family, and I was interested in the cultural aspects of the book as well. I’d never heard of Michelle Zauner or her music before, so I was intrigued.

Crying in H Mart turned out to be a beautiful, well-written and thought-provoking memoir. This wasn’t a memoir that had me bawling my eyes out from beginning to end, but it hit me in waves, forcing me to put the book down and return to it. It’s emotional, and it transfixed me—sending me into reflections of past relationships with members of my own family—reminding me of how we should never take family for granted. No one is guaranteed any specific amount of time here, and we have to live each day like it’s our last together.

The boy’s mom placed pieces of beef from her spoon onto his. He is quiet and looks tired and doesn’t talk to her much. I want to tell him how much I miss my mother. How he should be kind to his mom, remember that life is fragile and she could be gone at any moment.

It was easy to relate to Michelle’s relationship with particular Korean foods and the cooking she grew up with. The connection to her Korean heritage was through her mom. I’m one of the last people in my family to prepare specific recipes from my Syrian side—those that I grew up eating—so it’s something I often share with my own children. I’ve always hoped that our family recipes would remain preserved and carried into future generations. It was a neat experience learning about Korean dishes I’ve never heard of—some that include familiar ingredients from Syrian recipes too, including pine nuts. Kimchi is a fermented food I’ve eaten for years, and now I’m inspired to make my own. I look forward to trying different Korean foods some day. Needless to say, I connected with this book on multiple levels.

People who’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, or those experiencing grief now will likely connect with this book. The author does share the entire, detailed experience of her mother’s diagnosis and illness and what it was like for her during these times as her caretaker. She’s woven it all with memories of her past, which makes it incredibly emotional. There were some laugh-out-loud moments for me as well. I’d recommend this book because I’m sure everyone can take something from it.

Overall, Crying in H Mart is a moving memoir about the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, grieving, forgiveness, and the power of food and how it connects us.


You can also see this review @www.readrantrockandroll.com
Profile Image for JanB .
1,143 reviews2,494 followers
June 2, 2021
Losing a mother is a watershed event, and life is never the same again

I'm shocked that the descriptions and grief of losing her mother didn't bring back painful memories of losing my own but strangely it didn't. Maybe because our experiences were very different in other ways, I could personally remove myself from the narrative, but still feel it’s poignancy.

The author is raw, honest, and vulnerable as she talks about the complex and often difficult relationship she had with her mother.

She was my champion, she was my archive. She had taken the utmost care to preserve the evidence of my existence and growth, capturing me in images, saving all my documents and possessions. She had all knowledge of my being memorized.”

The author doesn’t just highlight her loss and grief, she highlights her experience of growing up Korean American.

“I had spent my adolescence trying to blend in with my peers in suburban America…. I could never be of both worlds, only half in and half out, waiting to be ejected at will by someone with greater claim than me.

She also details her journey of connecting with her mother through her Korean roots and through food. The descriptions of her trips to Korea, and of the food she both ate and cooked were amazing and made my stomach rumble. I've never visited H Mart, but now I want to.

Food was an unspoken language between us, had come to symbolize our return to each other, our bonding, our common ground.”

I'm not familiar with the author's music (Japanese Breakfast) but the memoir was excellent, and I highly recommend. Although I was given an ARC via EW I downloaded the audiobook from my library because I think memoirs shine when hearing the author speak her own words, and this is one of the best.

Beautiful, poignant, and heartbreaking in all of the best ways, there’s something here for everyone.

* I received a digital copy of the book via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Kathy.
189 reviews22 followers
May 16, 2021
It was okay. It is, as the title suggests, a grief memoir. The author's regret and despair as she cares for her dying mother is palpable and tender and surely relatable, but ultimately even this binding experience does not seem to spur much deep analysis into her lived cognitive dissonance, growing up Asian-presenting to white people and white-presenting to Asian people.

Another reviewer said they had a hard time finding empathy for the only child energy, and I can see that, insofar as Zauner's grieving struggles to center anyone but herself—the notable missing alternative being the mother she's mourning. Her book is essentially a posthumous homage to her relationship with (if not to) her late mother, but not her mother as her own person, separate from her identity as Zauner's mother, if that makes any sense. So it's kinda no wonder Zauner has a hard time coming to terms with her own identity. Maybe she did research her mom's life more and it simply didn't make it into this book, but I doubt that given the style.

Because of the lack of introspection and deeper cultural analysis, this felt very conversational (which can be a good thing) but mostly only relevant to her existing Japanese Breakfast fanbase, the way other celebrity memoirs operate. Of course I can't speak to other half-Asian readers who may glean something just from seeing themselves represented in Zauner, which is also valuable and scarce in the publishing world. Anyway I'm critical of and reluctant to read most memoirs to begin with so I'm sure my opinion won't be shared by most people who will read and love this book.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,135 reviews2,161 followers
July 30, 2022
This memoir tells us about the incredible bond between Michelle Zauner and her mother and how she coped with her mother's cancer.

Michelle Zauner is a famous American singer and guitarist of Korean ethnicity. In the initial part, she narrates how she muddled through the differences in cultures that almost all the children of immigrants face in America. Many people will connect with the hurdles she overcame to fit in with her peer group. Her quest for passion and freedom kept her pushing away from her culture and family.

Then a bolt out of the blue, she came across her mother's illness. She had terminal stage cancer. She had to come back to look after her mother, bringing her back to her family and the Korean culture. It will be difficult for many people who have gone through similar pain to read some of her painful experiences. The pain, love, tears, and happiness are mentioned in a simple manner that will make us smile and cry simultaneously.

Food has got a special place in this book. The way her mother showed her love via food and how Michelle learns to cook Korean food, and the Korean craze for Kimchi are all well delineated by the author.

My favorite three lines from this book.
"To be a loving mother was to be known for a service, but to be a lovely mother was to possess a charm all your own."

"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."

"I remember these things clearly because that was how my mother loved you, not through white lies and constant verbal affirmation, but in subtle observations of what brought you joy, pocketed away to make you feel comforted and cared for without even realizing it."

This is not a memoir about someone whose actions changed the world or saved thousands of people's lives. But still, it will touch your heart, and you will love it more than most of the memoirs you have read because the mother-daughter relationship is depicted in the best possible manner you have seen in any book. The author wrote it so brilliantly that you will feel that you are also a member of their family and feel all the emotions along with Michelle and her mother. This is a must-read book for everyone.
Profile Image for persephone ☾.
461 reviews2,041 followers
May 26, 2022
my grandfather died of lung cancer today.
only a few hours after receiving the news, i felt the overwhelming urge to read this book and whilst i don't think this was the greatest idea i've ever had (mostly because of how distressed it made me feel) i am still grateful that i did. i could list a thousand reasons why, but the main one is that at least i didn't feel alone in my suffering, so thank you Michelle Zauner for writing this book.

i might write a proper review one day but today is certainly not that day, take care <3
Profile Image for Allison Faught.
304 reviews142 followers
January 14, 2023
My reading resolution this year is to read 5 memoirs. This marks 1 of 5 read so far this year. Memoirs aren’t a genre of book I typically pick up so I’d like to try to expand my horizon!
The idea of losing either of my parents would be so traumatic so I think it is really strong of Michelle Zauner to write in such detail about such a traumatizing time.
I loved the connection Michelle shared with her Aunt after her mom’s passing even though language was an obvious barrier. I thought it was beautiful and poetic how they each saw Michelle’s mom in the other.
My only complaint is that I wish there was a glossary of meals, family names and Korean words to refer back to as needed.
I thought this was a heartbreaking yet powerful book about a mother and daughter’s bond and how irreplaceable that bond is.
I thought this was a great first start to my memoir reading journey and I’d love to hear of recommendations of other fantastic memoirs I should add to my list! 🤗
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,457 reviews8,560 followers
April 23, 2023
Michelle Zauner does a nice and honest job of portraying the messy parts of her family. I think her realness about her family’s conflicts gives her writing about her grief an additional layer of nuance that ups the emotional impact of this memoir overall. At the same time, I liked the clear love she and her mom had for one another, often shared through food, that emerged as a salient theme in Crying in H Mart even with the fights they had.

I did walk away from this memoir feeling a tad disappointed. First, I felt like the reliance of the motif of food undercut some of the emotional and relational depth Zauner could have explored further, such as how she processed her grief after her mother died and how it affected her relationship with her father. More specifically, I wanted more self-exploration and interrogation of race. Zauner mentions aspiring toward whiteness in a critical way one or two times in Crying in H Mart, though she doesn’t unpack this sentiment thoroughly. This lack of analysis – especially given the conflictual relationship between her mother and father – felt odd to me, as well as her use of the word “Caucasian” a couple of times instead of white (given that Caucasian is a racist term). One instance I found particularly uncomfortable was when Zauner, a biracial (Korean and white) woman, refers to her white boyfriend as “out of my league” and “objectively more attractive” than herself, which I was like?? What measure of objectivity are we using here?? It reminded me of many instances I’ve observed of Asian Americans idolizing whiteness without a second thought.

Overall an alright memoir. If this memoir’s topic sounds interesting to you, I’d definitely recommend Tastes Like War by Grace Cho, which felt even more rigorous and emotionally rich to me.
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 5 books394 followers
February 19, 2023
It's hard to describe how much this book means to me.

The author, Michelle Zauner, is the lead singer and principal songwriter for Japanese Breakfast, one of my all-time favorite indie bands. In anticipation of our emergence from COVID-19 quarantine, my family and I bought tickets for a Japanese Breakfast concert following the release of their new album, "Jubliee." This was meant to be our family's celebration of the end of COVID-19. How naïve we were...

We never made it to the concert. My dad, who had been very healthy his whole life, lost his battle with Stage IV pancreatic cancer the same week that we planned to see Japanese Breakfast. This is the same disease that claimed Michelle's mother, also very unexpectedly and far too young. Michelle's memoir hits home really hard for me and my family, as she discusses the horrible grief of losing a parent to cancer and trying to hold onto the memories as much as possible.

Michelle holds onto the memories through cooking, through her music, and, of course, by writing this beautiful and heartbreaking memoir. I cried along with Michelle throughout this book, but she also gave me hope that the grief can be overcome and that some day the good memories will outweigh the sadness of having lost a parent way too soon.

I also encourage you to watch her music video for "The Body is a Blade," in which Michelle beautifully recreates photos of her mother from her younger days. Just be sure to have some tissues nearby.
Profile Image for Chacha.
4 reviews
March 24, 2023
Warning. Unpopular opinion.

the relationship is abusive emotionally and physically. It doesn’t matter if a person feeds you delicious food or know all of your favorites or if they tell you each and every time that they only want the best for you etc. good intentions can and should be done without damaging a child’s self esteem or scarring someone’s childhood. Abuse is abuse. And this is glorifying the abuse we get from our parents who cover their parenting mistakes with claims of good intentions just because they are old(er) dying or dead.

Pls don’t tolerate abuse. Yes i feel strongly about it because i was raised the same way and it should stop. Emotional abuse, hurtful words, humiliation, over criticizing, lack of privacy, never appreciated, feelings always invalidated, siding with your bullies, talking bad about you to everyone, never recognizing your success, using you as a pension plan, calling you names, - until now at 38 yrs old I am telling you it it never heals.

UPDATE: I’m asian 💯 i live in asia both parents asian. Cant get more asian than me lol. My take on this is personally rooted. At one point i thought this was my memoir why she talking about my mother 🫠🤣 My own child tells me that my own mother (her grandmother) broke me because she sees how my mother treats me. I haven’t healed and i dont if it will ever happen.
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 7 books54.6k followers
April 30, 2021
I loved this book. Review to follow.
Profile Image for Garrett.
51 reviews24 followers
June 5, 2021
I loved Zauner’s essay of the same name in the New Yorker, but I’m not sure the book added much more to her story of note.

This felt like a book that needed to be written, but not necessarily to be read.
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,070 followers
May 25, 2021
dnf @ 75pgs - i have to step away from this read as i’m finding it incredibly triggering. that’s nothing against the book itself - it’s a stunning memoir that i highly recommend from what i read. i just thought i was in a place mentally where i could read this, but i am not.
Profile Image for Era ➴.
215 reviews520 followers
November 10, 2022
Yes, I did cry.

Every time I remember that my mother is dead, it feels like I’m colliding with a wall that won’t give. There’s no escape, just a hard surface that I keep ramming into over and over, a reminder of the immutable reality that I will never see her again.

V told me to warn them if this book actually made me cry, so there’s your warning. But I also read this book during a depressive episode after fighting with my mom, so, you know, it may not have actually been the book.

Regardless, rest assured that it is very sad.

I’m not entirely sure how to review a book that’s nonfiction since everything I read is fiction and fantasy. There aren’t any characters or world-building or really a plot for me to parse out. So basically I’m just talking about what I liked about this book, what stuck out to me, and pretty much just my personal feelings about it.

We don’t talk about it. There’s never so much as a knowing look. We sit here in silence, eating our lunch. But I know we are all here for the same reason. We’re all searching for a piece of home, or a piece of ourselves. We look for a taste of it in the food we order and the ingredients we buy. Then we separate. We bring the haul back to our dorm rooms or our suburban kitchens, and we re-create the dish that couldn’t be made without our journey. What we’re looking for isn’t available at a Trader Joe’s. H Mart is where your people gather under one odorous roof, full of faith that they’ll find something they can’t find anywhere else.

The writing Michelle Zauner used was so painfully descriptive and full of emotion that it was pretty much impossible not to get swept up in her head. I loved her style, the way it felt like I could hear someone telling me everything. I could feel her pain and need and joy.

I felt such an emotional connection to this woman that I haven’t met, and until like last month I hadn’t heard of her. Her words were so strong and blunt and yet, with the way she expressed things, it made me feel like I was actually reading a fiction book.

I never consider nonfiction books imaginative in that they usually don’t make me “see” things the way fiction books do. Somehow, this one did.

Cooking my mother's food had come to represent an absolute role reversal, a role I was meant to fill. Food was an unspoken language between us, had come to symbolize our return to each other, our bonding, our common ground.

The themes of this book were so complex and harsh. I honestly have no idea how she wrote this book like that, because I can’t even figure out a way to summarize them in this review.

Crying in H Mart follows Michelle Zauner’s journey of navigating her life before and after her mother’s death from cancer, and her struggle to come to terms with her heritage. It also went into how she eventually went on to become the lead of Japanese Breakfast, an indie rock band.

Growing up half-white and half-Korean was something that she grappled with, and the way she represented this struggle was so real and personal. Me being full Asian, I naturally couldn’t completely relate, but I think I still understand what it’s like to feel caught between two cultures, places and languages.

Michelle Zauner writes about how her and her mother’s shared love of Korean food and culture brought them together in ways nothing else could, even when her mother’s love felt wrong or her teenage rebellion drove them apart.

Unlike the second languages I attempted to learn in high school, there are Korean words I inherently understand without ever having learned their definition. There is no momentary translation that mediates the transition from one language to another. Parts of Korean just exist somewhere as part of my psyche - words imbued with their pure meaning, not their English substitutes.

Her experience just spoke to me in a way that felt personal, even though I know tons of other people have read and experienced this book.

Her relation of tangled relationships and complicated pasts felt, again, like something out of fiction. It felt so harsh and yet fitting in a way that never makes sense. The emotions in the way she explained things, reminiscing on the past, were so vivid and I don’t know how she managed to put this stuff down on paper.

The things she spoke about in terms of Asian culture, stereotypes and parenting styles felt so perfect to me, even though I have never known and may never figure out how to express them.

Hers was tougher than tough love. It was brutal, industrial-strength. A sinewy love that never gave way to an inch of weakness. It was a love that saw what was best for you ten steps ahead, and didn't care if it hurt like hell in the meantime. When I got hurt, she felt it so deeply, it was as though it were her own affliction. She was guilty only of caring too much. I realize this now, only in retrospect. No one in this world would ever love me as much as my mother, and she would never let me forget it.

Michelle Zauner’s relationship with her mother was something that was very complicated, and reading about it was so confusing and yet therapeutic. It was kind of calming to see someone else express how damn complex relationships can be, especially with parents.

There’s this line between toxic relationships and relationships where someone is protective, and I don’t know how she managed to write these things down in such a clear, authentic way. I think I’ve said that so many times already, and I probably will repeat it a lot more times through this review.

My family lauded my bravery, I radiated with pride, and something about that moment set me on a path. I came to realize that while I struggled to be good, I could excel at being courageous. I began to delight in surprising adults with my refined palate and disgusting my inexperienced peers with what I would discover to be some of nature’s greatest gifts.

The food and culture parts were the ones that felt the most personal to me. Food and familial customs can be some of the only things that my parents and I can get along over. I love trying new foods and I love the connections we make over just our opinions and experiences.

This book gave me so many cravings. I loved how it involved so many food descriptions and food lists, because it made me feel so nostalgic and hungry and just somewhat comforted.

But my parents were worldly in their own ways. They had seen much of the world and had tasted what it had to offer. What they lacked in high culture, they made up for by spending their hard-earned money on the finest of delicacies. My childhood was rich with flavor—blood sausage, fish intestines, caviar. They loved good food, to make it, to seek it, to share it, and I was an honorary guest at their table.

I think one of my favorite things was the way these foods were used in conjunction with expression and emotion, because that’s something that just felt so right to me. It was something I could inherently understand, even if I can’t speak Korean or haven’t had those foods, because I’ve had similar experiences in my own life.

I also used to love surprising my (white) classmates with the foods I had eaten. It was so much fun to me to bring up spicy pig intestines or octopus and watch their facial expressions change, and getting my mom’s attention by trying something new she offered me was just something that made little me feel good.

Something about how close these words felt to me was just what I needed.

The concept of prepping meals for the week was a ludicrous affront to our lifestyle. We chased our cravings daily. If we wanted the kimchi stew for three weeks straight, we relished it until a new craving emerged.

This part just stuck out to me. I love this mindset about cravings and how that plays into culture. I just loved how this book talked about food and culture, honestly. I’m Asian, okay? Those two aspects are basically my life whenever they get any rep.

Honestly, all I can say about this is that it made me emotional.

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.

The way she talked about grief just hit hard. Even from the beginning, in recounting her childhood, the book was full of regrets and memories that gave every line these emotional undertones.

This book just. Hurt. It hurt me.

I don’t know what else to say. Just that everything in it eventually led to pain, and even though it was beautiful and lovely and made me crave a ton of food, it also made me want to cry over a bowl of noodles. I feel like I formed some kind of psychological connection with this book that may or may not be unhealthy. It was beautiful and painful and beautiful in the way it was painful.

I wondered if the 10 percent she kept from the three of us who knew her best—my father, Nami, and me—had all been different, a pattern of deception that together we could reconstruct. I wondered if I could ever know all of her, what other threads she'd left behind to pull.

I think I’ve said the same things over and over throughout this review, but I don’t know how else to phrase things.

Overall, this book is definitely not the kind of thing I generally read, but it was so worth it. I loved every line of it, despite all the pain. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re like me and generally read kind of heavy fantasy stuff. It was tragic and real and gave me so many emotions. I cried and laughed and honestly I don’t know how to explain what this book did to me.

It was just such an amazing experience.
Profile Image for Rachel.
138 reviews7 followers
December 1, 2022
Ok, i know im probably going to get a lot of hate for this but... no. Absolutely not.

Look, i would never tell someone how to grieve, and if this helped Michelle, I love that for her. I hope it did. I hope she's ok.

But this book is awful. Not the writing - but the point. I am wildly confused why it has such rave reviews. Michelle is not a bad writer, but the entire premise of the book is mourning Michelle's mother, honoring her memory, and romanticizing this mother daughter relationship - but her mom was straight up abusive. And don't give me that "but the culture is different" BS - i dont care what country you're from, if you put your hands on another human being in a threatening or harmful way, or anyway that isn't consensual THAT IS ABUSE. If you tell your alcoholic husband to hit your child, YOU ARE ABUSIVE. Both of Michelle's parents were physically, mentally and emotionally abusive. I dont care how much fun they had cooking or shopping at H MART - it doesn't erase the abuse. The saddest part of this book is not that Michelle's mother died, but that she said at the end " no one will ever love me as much as my mother" I genuinely hope that one day Michelle realizes that love exists without abuse and can move beyond that.

The only part of this experience i appreciate is learning about Michelle's music, Japanese Breakfast, which is really really good.
Profile Image for lisa (lh44's version).
147 reviews550 followers
April 8, 2023
A silent but devastating tragedy. Aged me fifty years. I am not sure that I am mentally stable enough to write a review right now, but if you have to read one memoir this year, let it be this one.
Profile Image for Maria.
157 reviews88 followers
June 5, 2022
Go with the audiobook.

Listening to Michelle Zauner narrate her own beautifully raw memoir adds a level of depth to the story that reading the written word can't match. Perhaps it's because she a musician, but the story takes on ballad or operatic quality when she reads it. It is one of the best audiobooks I've ever heard.

Some say that Michelle wrote this book for herself and her mother and it was almost too personal for her to share.

I disagree. Her brutal honesty about her feelings and situations, encouraged me to examine my own emotions at a depth that I had been avoiding. I am an only child who lost my mother at 3 and was left with a father who couldn't cope. Michelle articulated my feelings in a way that I have never been able to.

The way she was able to look at both her parents as entire people and understand their back stories and motivations without excusing their behavior was cathartic for me.

I wept a lot during this book. Like pulled over to the side of the road because I couldn't see weep. It's a short book but I had to take break some times so I could sit in my feelings and process.

I mean shit, I read this book almost a year ago and am just now getting around to writing a review.

I don't know that this book will resonate so deeply with others who have not mourned in this way. It isn't just her mother that she loses, but her immediate family, the idea of a family structure and her lifeline to her ethnic identity.

Michelle does a great job of explaining the difficulty of having a mixed racial identity and being an outsider wherever you go. As a second generation immigrant who was never taught her native tongue or culture and was raised in a predominantly white area, once again I can relate. That longing for a community that welcomes you at face value is real.

I think Michelle wrote this book for herself and her mother of course, but I also believe her wholeheartedly when she said “The majority of the time, sharing a very honest part of your life can touch people”, because I am one of the people who was touched by this work.
Profile Image for Amina.
373 reviews135 followers
December 8, 2022
❤️⭐️Winner of 2021 best Memoir ⭐️❤️

If Goodreads gave an option of six stars, this book would be first in line.

I fell in love with the free-flowing poetic writing only to learn that the author started her career as a singer, which made perfect sense.

The story, while heavy and triggering, was raw and heartwarming.

Cancer SUCKS!

Zauner chronicles the journey of her relationship with her mother. A mother she lives to please, falls away from, and eventually falls toward.

The news of her mother’s cancer changes everything she’s known about life thus far. The diagnosis of cancer opens up Zauner to a plethora of her mother’s beautiful Korean cuisine.

In the days leading up to her mother’s illness, she learns to embrace foods that have been an integral part of her childhood. She slowly mixes love and life through cherished recipes.

The daughter of an immigrant Korean mother and an American father, Zauner struggles to find her place in the world and her home.

I could relate to so many aspects of Zauner's journey; a parent's sudden diagnosis of cancer, the mother-daughter bond, and simply trying to fit into a society that continuously questions what you are and how you got there.

It felt like I could have written it myself.

I have seen some criticism over Zauner’s memoir and discrediting her relationship with her mother as toxic or abusive. However, coming from an Asian family myself, I would argue that this tough love is a part of the culture and is seen more as sharping and caring. It seems hard to swallow, but Zauner is writing from a place of love for her mother.

A highly recommended read. Moving and heartbreaking. A box of Kleenexes is required.

"It felt like the world had divided into two different types of people, those who had felt pain and those who had yet to.”

5/5 stars
Profile Image for julieta.
1,138 reviews19.3k followers
August 1, 2021
Beautiful and emotional, as much as it is sensorial. Michelle Zauner is a singer songwriter, and this memoir about her mother is deep and wonderful. Now I really want to go to Seoul and eat. Very recommended.
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