Korean Supper

Jonathan Heggen

I approached Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart: A Memoir (Penguin Random House) with the tentative awareness that I am her target demographic: an aging millennial, the result of a biracial marriage, a former “indie kid” with a propensity for the sentimental. Zauner spends much of her debut memoir examining the world through this same lens: the half-Korean songstress (Zauner records under the name Japanese Breakfast) delves into questions of identity and representation, but what I did not expect to identify with most is the sadness that fuels her artistic journey. The source of Zauner’s tears is the terminal illness of her mother, whose battle with cancer brings Zauner into her own maturity. In reading her story, I saw the struggles of my own parents, and found a new appreciation for the type of silent love offered to children of immigrants: all the Saran-wrapped meals left to turn cold on the kitchen table; the rearranging of financials to pay for school; the mastery of reading even the most subtle emotions from afar. Zauner’s skill is identifying these minutiae, the silent love which remains even after death, intangible but real as air. She reifies this invisible devotion and brings it to the fore: the meals prepared for us without our presence, the faith that our delinquency will be outgrown, and the private hope that, although our parents’ love can never fully be returned, it will one day be appreciated.

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