Graphics by Kevin Shin
By Tatum Jenkins, Music Coordinator
Michelle Zauner made a name for herself performing as Japanese Breakfast. Now, the singer is diving headfirst into the literary world with the release of her memoir, Crying in H Mart. It’s an ode to her mother, who died of cancer in 2014, and their shared love of Korean food. Through vivid descriptions of their favorite dishes, she relives and mourns their relationship, navigating loss through flavor and appearance. Zauner’s not out to make a profound statement about grief or share what she learned from losing her mother. She just wants to share her experience and allow her readers to make their own connection to her words. And it’s this honesty in her expression that makes Crying in H Mart stand out to me.
ZAUNER’S STORY IS DEEPLY RELATABLE
I bought Crying in H Mart on the six year anniversary of my grandfather’s death. While we weren’t as close as Zauner was with her mother, her exploration of grief still resonated with me. She writes about the endless procedures, conversations that happened and didn’t happen, frequent hospital visits and relocation, and more. All these are shared experiences of knowing someone you love is going to die. For someone who’s known more for being a lyricist, her prose is quite beautiful. She understands how to structure her chapters and story, setting a satisfying and engaging pace. Her descriptions have some of the most beautiful imagery I’ve ever read. I’m thoroughly impressed in Zauner’s ability to adapt from music to this newer artistic format.
THERE’S BEAUTY IN ZAUNER’S PAIN
Not only is Crying in H Mart literarily sound, it’s also emotionally processed yet raw. You can sense that Zauner has worked through much of her grief. Still, she is able to conjure her pain magically through the pages. She recalls memories with nearly photographic detail. It’s this searing specificity surrounding her mother’s death that makes her loss feel like yours. I’ve never understood grief as deeply as I have now through Zauner’s writing. I think I may never feel untouched from any death after the experience of reading this book.
Whether you’re a longtime fan of Japanese Breakfast or have never heard of her, I recommend Crying in H Mart. No matter your past connection to Zauner, you’ll be welcomed into a creative world you’ll never want to leave or forget.