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Nonfiction Review: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Title: Crying in H Mart

Author: Michelle Zauner

Year Published: 2021

Category: Adult nonfiction (memoir)
Pages: 256
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) USA (OR) and South Korea

Summary (from Amazon): 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.

  I received this book from my daughter for my birthday last week and have heard a ton of good things about it so was excited to read it. I liked it and think the family stories are really good, and, at first, I was going to give it a 4 out of 5. However....

Memoirs are interesting books and I always wonder what compels us to read about someone else's life if they are not "famous." Well, I guess she is kind of famous (except I hadn't heard of her or her band, Japanese Breakfast). What does the author have to tell us or pass on that will enrich our lives? In this author's tale, it is a story of a mother and daughter and the impact they have on one another. That is a relationship we can all relate to, no matter how well we get along with our own mothers/mother figures.

Zauner has a way with describing scenes that make it easy to picture it even if we aren't totally familiar with South Korean culture or her specific experiences. She finds commonalities amongst her own life that allow us to relate to her and to her family. Whether it's cooking and eating, shopping, or talking, the tensions and emotions that exist among family members are universal.

I was cruising along in this book thinking it was good, but not great until I reached the chapter Medicine in which her mother begins her cancer treatments. This is the chapter where I feel like the reader gets pulled into the relationship and we feel committed to the family. We learn more about her father's background and her relationship with her mother seems to come full circle. Caring for a loved one is intense.

By the end of the book, in whose last chapter we finally learn about her career and band, Zauner seems more at peace with herself and her relationship with her mother. I am really glad that I read this book and you can see I elevated it to a 4.5

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Alphabet (author)--Z
  • Diversity--Asian American "characters" and author

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