A Korean American Memoir

Michelle Zauner’s book, Crying in H-Mart is an honest, powerful memoir about the intricate bond Michelle has with her Korean mother, Chongmi. It is also about the self-exploration that she experiences upon learning that her mother is dying of cancer.

Michelle born in Seoul, South Korea relocated to Eugene, Oregon with her parents when she was a year old. As an intensely creative young person, Michelle wrestled with her mixed Korean American identity within the complexities of America’s millennial pop culture. Her memoir explains her acrimonious teenage relationship with her mother, her lively family dynamics during her trips to Seoul, and her journey as a talented musician.

In her memoir Crying in H-Mart, Michelle describes how she struggles to reclaim her loving relationship by caring for her until her mother’s death. While walking through the aisle of the Korean-American supermarket chain H-Mart, Michelle is able to capture wonderful memories of their happier times enjoying Korean food together.

Recommended interest reading age – Upper high school to adult

This memoir was such a surprise and a complete joy. While I felt tenderness for Michelle, I was more impressed and awed by the depth of her personality, the strength in her strife for self-discovery, and the love for her mother. It was so much fun to explore her music references – none of which I had ever heard. The Korean food vocabulary throughout the memoir was foreign to me except for Kimchi which is a fermented cabbage dish and a Korean staple.

Michelle wrote about a YouTuber Korean cook, Maangchi. In searching for Maangchi’s videos, I discovered that she is very popular worldwide and has over 600,000 followers. She is so adorable, funny, and a talented cook. I made her recipe Vegetable Pancake  (Yachaejeon: 야채전) and bought some delicious Sunja’s Medium Spicy Kimchi made in Waterbury, Vermont. The Vegetable Pancake was a flavorful crispy delight. The Kimchi was the perfect spicy complimentary side dish.

The image above is Spicy Korean Tofu by Rasa Malaysia and Maangchi’s Vegetable Pancake.

Books truly can open windows to the world and Crying in H-Mart certainly opened mine.

— Carole

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