Crying in H Mart Book Summary - Crying in H Mart Book explained in key points
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Crying in H Mart summary

Michelle Zauner

A Memoir

4.2 (116 ratings)
20 mins
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    Crying in H Mart
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    Directions to H Mart

    For those who don’t know, H Mart is an Asian supermarket chain in the United States. The H stands for “han ah reum,” a Korean phrase that means, “one arm full of groceries.” H Mart is a chain, and the stores are usually located on the outskirts of cities and towns, anchoring a strip mall of other Asian markets and restaurants. The good ones, not the tourist traps you find downtown.

    Most H Marts have a food court, pharmacy, appliance shop, and beauty counter, but they’re best known for their groceries. The soy-sauce eggs, cold radish soup, and dumpling skins that remind Michelle Zauner of her deceased mother. All the different brands of seaweed that make Zauner wonder if she’s still Korean when she has no one to call and ask which brand they used to buy. Her father, a Caucasian man from Philadelphia, wouldn’t know.

    Zauner isn’t the only one who goes to H Mart to find the right ingredients and connect with her family in the process. She watches a family of Korean women share dishes and stories in the food court. She sees a group of Chinese students hunting for their favorite kind of noodles. When she sees a kid brandishing two packets of ppeongtwigi, a Korean snack, she breaks down in tears. She can tell you about her mother losing hair in the bathtub after chemotherapy without batting an eye, but the snacks make her blubber.

    Food elicits deep emotion in Zauner because that’s how her mother, Chongmi, showed love. Chongmi Zauner remembered if you liked extra noodles, or less spice, or no tomatoes. She always had your favorite dishes waiting when you came to visit. And Chongmi loved food herself. She had a litany of favorites and “usuals,” and most of it revolved around Korean delicacies.

    Chongmi practiced tough love, and as a young child Michelle was constantly seeking her approval. Food was a way she could get it. Michelle first discovers this on a trip to Seoul when she’s out for lunch with her mother and her mother’s sisters, Nami and Eunmi, at a fish market. The first plate set on the table holds live octopus tentacles. They’re still wriggling and the suction cups are still throbbing, but after watching her mother eat some with glee, Michelle takes a bite. Her family erupts in delight, and a food lover is born.

    Michelle’s parents expose her to a world of flavor and she develops a sophisticated palate at a young age. She likes caviar, lobster, and raw fish of all kinds. Still, the seasoning that makes everything taste a little better is her mother’s approval. Like during another trip to Seoul when Michelle and her mother are awake in the middle of the night with jet lag and raiding halmoni’s fridge. Chongmi watches her daughter devour pungent leftovers in the dark and tells her this proves she’s a real Korean.

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    What is Crying in H Mart about?

    Michelle Zauner’s memoir, Crying in H Mart (2021), explores Zauner’s search for identity, her relationship with her Korean mother, and her beginnings as a musician. Key moments and emotions are constantly linked with food, which lies at the heart of Zauner’s connection with her mother, her heritage, and her true self.

    Who should read Crying in H Mart?

    • Anyone who has experienced grief
    • Fans of Japanese Breakfast
    • Asian food aficionados

    About the Author

    Michelle Zauner is a singer and guitarist known for creating dreamy, shoegaze music under the moniker Japanese Breakfast. Her albums Psychopomp (2016) and Soft Sounds from Another Planet (2017) received world-wide recognition, and Crying in H Mart spent 60 weeks on the New York Times best-selling hardcover nonfiction list.

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