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Review: “Crying in H Mart” Tells Beautiful Story Of Loss

Michelle Zauner crafts memoir describing her reconnection with Korean culture
Photo by Sam Anderson
On the cover of “Crying in H Mart,” noodles hang from two pairs of chopsticks. Food serves as a symbol of the Korean culture connecting the author, singer Michelle Zauner, and her late mother in the memoir that tells the story of how she adjusted to her mother’s cancer diagnosis.

“Crying in H Mart” is a heartbreaking memoir that illustrates Michelle Zauner’s fight to connect with her Korean heritage, and her struggle with the loss of her mother. 

Zauner is a singer, author and Korean immigrant, and member of the indie band “Japanese Breakfast.” 

In the book, Zauner’s talent for writing is clear as she beautifully portrays her story of loss, culture, and identity. Her modern memoir said so much in so few pages, and it addressed important themes of culture, loss and healing. 

Throughout the beginning of the novel, Zauner does an excellent job of explaining her youth in deep detail. For example, emphasizing the role that food has played in her life and using it to explain her relationship with her mother. 

Despite friction with her mom, Zauner’s love for cultural foods provided an opportunity for mother-daughter bonding. Zauner’s only connection to her Korean culture was her mother, but now that her mother has passed away, Zauner’s cultural identity feels like it completely disappeared. 

Zauner begins her story as stated in the title, crying in the Korean-American grocery store H Mart. As she passed through shelves filled with Korean ingredients and foods, she realized that none of her mother’s recipes were ever passed down to her. 

Zauner wrote with detailed words, describing a painful, gut-wrenching loss as she watched both her mother and her culture slowly fade away. 

The most heart shattering part of the memoir was when Zauner found out her mother had a cancerous tumor growing in her stomach. 

It is clear how much emotion was poured into the book, and Zauner presented the struggle of grieving in an honest and relatable way. She had to decide between crying and seeking comfort, or holding herself together for her family and waiting until she could go home to process. It was the two sides of her fighting that really struck me, and she beautifully portrayed the dilemma.

This memoir got close to bringing me to tears, as Zauner walks the reader through the grief she felt during the loss, and how she tried to mend the mutually abusive relationship that she shared with her mother.

Possibly my favorite thing about the story was how Zauner authentically addressed the reality of grief by bringing up how her dad reacted, revealing the harsh truths of his actions and words.

Although I enjoyed the way Zauner went into great depth about her childhood, I would have also loved to hear more about Zauner’s young adulthood, as it felt like details of it were missing from the book.  

I also noticed one aspect about the explanation of the characters that I found confusing. Sometimes Zauner would start describing a character with a name, and then slowly explain their role in the story. 

It made it harder to piece together what was going on, but it wasn’t a major bother. I think it was an artistic decision, and brought out Zauner’s unique voice. 

Zauner’s carefully crafted story about her experience with her mother’s illness and culture ripped my heart out, and I can now only wait for Zauner’s next release.

About the Contributor
Juliana Stimac
Juliana Stimac, News editor
What are you looking forward to on the staff this year? I’m excited to work with reporters on news stories this year! Who are your favorite music artists? Fiona Apple, the Arctic Monkeys, and The Neighborhood What causes are you passionate about? I’m really passionate about women’s issues and healthcare