It’s easy to forget that a book can be as lyrical as a song when one doesn’t have an audible melody accompanying the reading experience. Michelle Zauner’s 2021 memoir Crying In H Mart, however, proves the indelible, inherent musicality of literature.
In her debut book, Zauner—known as Japanese Breakfast to legions of indie-pop fans—tells stories of growing up and subsequently growing distant from her Koreanness. When Zauner’s mother, her central connection to Korea, is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she is forced to reckon with and reclaim her identity at age 25.
Crying In H Mart will feel familiar to fans of Japanese Breakfast, accustomed as they are to Zauner’s penchant for transforming the gravest feelings of love, loss, and regret into verse of complex sensitivity. Whether she is exploring what it means to be Korean in America, the power of food to connect people, mother-daughter relationships, or the trials of adolescence, attendees at this Wisconsin Book Festival talk (moderated by Emily Mills) are sure to recognize a form of literary talent that facilitates kinship across boundaries and social categories.
“I remember these things clearly because that was how my mother loved you, not through white lies and constant verbal affirmation, but in subtle observations of what brought you joy, pocketed away to make you feel comforted and cared for without even realizing it,” she writes of her mother’s ability to remember just how much salt someone wanted in their broth, or if they hated tomatoes.
This Wisconsin Book Festival-presented talk will likely not be the last time people hear and indulge in the narratives of Crying In H Mart: Will Sharpe, of recent White Lotus notoriety, is slated to direct its film adaptation. As a Japanese-English filmmaker himself, Sharpe told Peoplethat he found the memoir “universal in its specificity.”
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