One of my favorite discoveries of the past year is the band Japanese Breakfast. They’ve been around for a while, but I just never got around to listening to them. Something else I just never got around to was reading Crying in H Mart. What’s the link here? Michelle Zauner is both the lead singer of Japanese Breakfast AND the author of this beautiful and heartbreaking memoir.
Michelle had a somewhat unpleasant upbringing. As one of the only Asian American students at her school in Oregon, she was further distanced from the kids by the rural location where her family lived. After high school, she moves to New York to try to make it as a musician and artist. At the age of 25, she is beginning to suspect that she should give it all up and get a real job. Then her world turns upside down as she learns that her mother has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Returning to her childhood home, Michelle must learn to handle the role reversal of caring for her parent. As her mother fades, Michelle gains a new perspective on her relationships and her identity as an Asian woman.
I have to admit, I had an extremely hard time reading this book. My library copy arrived on my Kindle while I was at my mother’s house, where she had just undergone surgery for her own bout with cancer. I forced myself to open it, and then found that I couldn’t put it down. Page after page, chapter after chapter, I plowed through at a rapid pace. Crying in H Mart was a beautiful tribute to Zauner’s mother, and to their relationship, and I am so grateful to have read it at a time in my life when I really needed it.