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‘Crying in H Mart’ named next One Book selection

Michelle Zauner’s powerful memoir and New York Times Best Seller tells the story of her late mother and their shared love of Korean food
crying in h mart
Anchored by the subject of food, the book explores author Michelle Zauner’s identity as a Korean American and her relationship with her terminally ill mother.

“Crying in H Mart,” the memoir that made indie pop artist Michelle Zauner a rockstar author, has been named the One Book One Northwestern selection for 2023-2024.

Zauner will deliver two keynote talks on campus: Noon on Wednesday, Oct. 18, in Hughes Auditorium at the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center in Chicago, and 5 p.m. in Cahn Auditorium in Evanston.

Best known as the singer and guitarist who creates dreamy, shoegaze-inspired indie pop under the name Japanese Breakfast, Zauner became a bestselling author in 2021 when her book about the loss of her mother, their shared love for Korean food and being biracial as an Asian American rocketed to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list.

crying in h mart
Zauner is currently adapting the book for MGM’s Orion Pictures.

All incoming first-year and transfer students will receive a physical or electronic copy of the book. As careful consideration is taken to select each year’s One Book One Northwestern title, students are encouraged to read the book for its inspiring capacity to promote thought-provoking and authentic conversations across campus.

The H Mart, a Korean American supermarket where Zauner shopped with her mother as a child, served as a place of connection and mourning after her mother died of cancer in 2014.

“H Mart is freedom from the single-aisle ‘ethnic’ section in regular grocery stores,” Zauner wrote in the 2018 New Yorker essay that led to the book. “They don’t prop Goya beans next to bottles of sriracha here. Instead, you’ll likely find me crying by the banchan refrigerators, remembering the taste of my mom’s soy-sauce eggs and cold radish soup.”

Anchored by the subject of food, the book explores the writer’s identity as a Korean American and her relationship with her terminally ill mother.

“Zauner weaves together seemingly small observations about food, childhood and caring for a dying mother into a haunting meditation on grief and love,” said Ji-Yeon Yuh, a historian of Asian diasporas, race and gender in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences who will serve as the faculty chair. “In mourning and thereby rediscovering her mother, she comes to understand her own personhood in all its dazzling depth and diversity. Her journey of loss, reclamation and self-discovery is universal in its themes while specific in its individuality, and therein lies its profound appeal.”

As the story goes, Zauner’s parents meet in Seoul in the early 1980s, marry and then settle in Eugene, Oregon, where the author returns as an adult to care for her Korean mother Chongmi through rounds of chemotherapy. While their relationship is often fraught, tested by cultural contradictions that leave Zauner feeling “lost in translation,” mother and daughter find common ground and joy in Korean food.

Zauner is currently adapting the book for MGM’s Orion Pictures, and her most recent album, “Jubilee” (2021), earned two Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album.

“This is a wonderful book for the Northwestern community,” said Nancy Cunniff, director of One Book One Northwestern. “It presents a unique opportunity for One Book to connect with our international community and Asian American students. Away from home for the first time, many college students are now learning to navigate a new phase in their relationship with their parents. Reflecting upon her own experiences, Zauner reckons with childhood feelings as she becomes an adult, rebuilds her relationship with her mother and grapples with what it means to be Asian American and biracial. ‘Crying in H Mart’ enables us to connect around these concepts of belonging and the significance of food in building community.”

The One Book One Northwestern program is sponsored by the Office of the President and will include related films, lectures, field trips and other programming throughout the coming academic year. For questions, contact