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Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Memoir

Crying in H Mart

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Michelle Zauner, on your first book!

by Michelle Zauner

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Quick take

A vibrant memoir of heritage—cultural, culinary, and otherwise—rediscovered in the wake of a shattering loss.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_WellKnownAuthor

    Famous author

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Acclaim

    Critically acclaimed

Synopsis

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she 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.

Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

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Crying in H Mart

1

Crying in H Mart

Ever since my mom died, I cry in H Mart.

H Mart is a supermarket chain that specializes in Asian food. The H stands for han ah reum, a Korean phrase that roughly translates to “one arm full of groceries.” H Mart is where parachute kids flock to find the brand of instant noodles that reminds them of home. It’s where Korean families buy rice cakes to make tteokguk, the beef and rice cake soup that brings in the New Year. It’s the only place where you can find a giant vat of peeled garlic, because it’s the only place that truly understands how much garlic you’ll need for the kind of food your people eat. H Mart is freedom from the single-aisle “ethnic” section in regular grocery stores. They don’t prop Goya beans next to bottles of sriracha here. Instead, you’ll likely find me crying by the banchan refrigerators, remembering the taste of my mom’s soy-sauce eggs and cold radish soup. Or in the freezer section, holding a stack of dumpling skins, thinking of all the hours that Mom and I spent at the kitchen table folding minced pork and chives into the thin dough. Sobbing near the dry goods, asking myself, Am I even Korean anymore if there’s no one left to call and ask which brand of seaweed we used to buy?

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Why I love it

“Ever since my mom died, I cry in H Mart.”

So begins Michelle Zauner’s gripping and beautiful account of how she lost her mother to cancer, and reconnected with her Korean heritage as a way of coping with her profound grief. Crying in H Mart is a breathtakingly moving and sensorial memoir, part portrait of a young woman coming into her own, part love letter to the amazing mother who raised her, all rendered in stunning prose – mouthwatering descriptions of food alongside nuanced depictions of the emotional terrain of loss.

Grief is never predictable, it strikes when it strikes. And in Michelle’s case, it strikes at H Mart (a grocery chain specializing in Asian food), ground zero for both her heartbreak and healing. H Mart is where the sight of dumpling skins transports Michelle to days sitting around the kitchen table, watching her mother fold wrappers around aromatic, minced pork. It’s where Chang Gu honey-cracker rings remind her of happy times when her mother wriggled them on all ten fingers. It’s where a jumble of flavors, aromas and packaging, coupled with a cacophony of familiar dialects, form an unlikely circuit board, connecting Michelle to her mother’s love, a sense of home and an elusive piece of herself, allowing the healing process to begin.

Uplifting, moving, unforgettable – one of the best memoirs of the year!

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Member ratings (12,047)

  • Haley I.

    Orchard Lake, MI

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Amazing memoir. Hilarious detailed stories and good take on the clash of American/Korean cultures - trying to fit in both societies. Bought and ate lots of kimchi while reading this one.

  • Samantha J.

    Beaverton, OR

    Both of my grandmothers are full Korean, both of my parents are half, making me half as well. I can’t describe the ways this book hit home for me, or the similarities between my life and the authors❤️

  • Jamie M.

    Savannah, GA

    “Save 10% for yourself” A beautiful, moving story of a mother/daughter relationship and personal growth/identity. It read like a work of fiction where I had to constantly remind myself it’s all true.

  • Samantha J.

    Memphis, TN

    An absolutely gut-wrenching read on Zauner’s sorrow and advancing grief with her mother’s cancer and death. Zauner’s craft of the last few chapters were perfection as she sustains her Korean heritage.

  • Lily A.

    Cary, NC

    I loved this book! Zauner did a great job on the writing. As an immigrant myself, it was very relatable. As someone who has yet to experience the pain of losing my mother, it was heart wrenching 😭❤️

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