“Ever since my mom died, I cry in H Mart.”
The first sentence of the poignant New Yorker essay by Michelle Zauner led to the creation of the book “Crying in H Mart: A Memoir,” an emotional, moving, thoughtful and beautifully written story of her life. She explores her grief when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, her identity as a Korean American and her relationship with food that invokes rich, vivid descriptions of the food she eats.
The vulnerability in her writing makes the book impossibly sad and difficult to put down. Zauner and her mother had a relationship that was complicated in many aspects, but they had the same love for good food — and food is also how Zauner shows her love for her mother when her cancer diagnosis comes out. Her descriptions of cooking and eating leap off the pages, immersing the reader in the experience. Food is intertwined with her depictions of loss, grief and healing, staying the one constant in the book. Her mother’s strong personality and unwavering tough love make her helplessness and lack of appetite during chemotherapy all the more heartbreaking. Her mother’s death takes place midway through the book. This is interesting because despite Zauner’s intense grief and feelings of emptiness, it shows us that this is not the end. Although she loses something so essential and beloved, she finds ways to continue to connect to her mother through their love for food, and she keeps going. The way she heals is realistic and relatable, haunted by her loss which changes her relationship with her father and reappears when she least expects it.
This book can be read even by people who have never heard of Japanese Breakfast, the band Zauner is part of and well known for, because the main focus of it is about her relationship with her mother and her connection to her culture through food. The rights to “Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” have been bought by Orion Pictures, who plan to release a feature film (release date unknown) based on it with Zauner providing the soundtrack. I hope the film will be as tear-jerking and emotionally rich as the book. I am unsure how they will translate the heady experience that the reader goes through while reading Zauner’s descriptions of food, but I am confident that it will be a film that should not be missed.