Michelle Zauner shares her journey toward reacquainting with her heritage amid the death of her mother
An unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.
Korean-American singer Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart” is personal for me for I read it during this time when the pain of losing my father and aunt is still fresh. This book is about the author exploring her culture and roots, in the process of coming to terms with her grief and sorrow in losing her mother.
“Here I was again, this time returned of my own free will, no longer scheming a wild escape into the dark but desperately hoping that a darkness would not come in.”
At first, I didn’t know if I would enjoy reading this biography. I admit I picked it up only because of the theme of grief. But I had my doubts as I read the first few pages. Because clearly, this is just for the Korean and immigrant audience, right? It turns out, that there’s more to it than the discussion of their food and culture.
Of course, there’s a reference to music but nothing that would bore the readers even if you don’t like that type of stuff. Zauner’s writing style was easy and light to read. I like how she gives readers a glimpse of her childhood growing up in a small town in the States to her days as a struggling musician in the city.
“Sometimes my grief feels as though I’ve been left alone in a room with no doors. 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”
The process of grief she went through was very detailed and could help readers going through the same loss as her family had experienced. She would fearlessly describe seeing her mom inside the hospital, losing hair: “There was no embarrassment left, just survival, everything action, and reaction.” But I liked how she pointed out the fact that sadness comes not from this kind of memory, but from the smallest things that would make you remember them. “If I’m being honest, there’s a lot of anger. I’m angry at this old Korean woman I don’t know, that she gets to live and my mother does not like that somehow this stranger’s survival is at all related to my loss. That someone my mother’s age could still have a mother. Why is she here slurping up spicy jjamppong noodles and my mom isn’t? Other people must feel this way. Life is unfair, and sometimes it helps to irrationally blame someone for it.”
Every word she writes, every experience with her mother in her dying moments, was a stab in my heart, for it brought back painful memories. The shame of losing the battle: “Maybe we hadn’t tried hard enough, hadn’t believed enough. Maybe god hated us. There were other families who had fought and won. We had fought and lost—and among all the natural, heartbreaking emotions we had expected to feel, it also felt strangely embarrassing.” But reading this book gave me some comfort, for finally, I realized that I was not alone in having these dark memories.
(Sun god worthy. 4 out of 5 stars). “How can you believe in god when something like this happens?” Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart” tells about reconnecting with her past in the process of seeking answers after the loss of her mother. But the book is not only for grieving, it is also a story of culture and tradition tangled with memories.
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