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The Echo

The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

Triple C’s Book Review #1: Crying in H Mart

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We’re Triple C: a dynamic trio of juniors (Kavya, Kailyn, and Anoushka), bonded by both a shared passion for literature and the coincidental charm of all having last names starting with the letter C. Our book review promises a diverse and engaging exploration of exciting books, and we invite fellow book lovers to join us on our literary journey!

H Mart, the supermarket filled with vibrant colors, enticing aromas, and diverse foods transporting me to different corners of Asia, is a place where I have fond memories of shopping with my mom. I start my journey in the ramen aisle, where I can’t resist grabbing a few varieties of delicious instant noodles. Moving on, I find myself in the snack section where the shelves are adorned with crispy seaweed packs and shrimp chips. Next is the dessert section, a personal favorite, where the frozen mochi ice creams and chewy rice cakes filled with red bean paste are stored. For Michelle Zauner too, navigating the aisles at H Mart isn’t just a shopping trip—it is a source of solace and connection to her Korean heritage. 

Crying in H Mart, published in April 2021, is a poignant memoir that explores Zauner’s challenges involving her cultural identity as a Korean-American. When her mother, Chongmi, is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May 2014, Zauner returns to her Korean roots and heals through cooking the comforting Korean foods that her mother had often cooked for her. The aisles of the H Mart supermarket become a sanctuary, a place where she could honor her mother’s legacy and find comfort in the rhythmic and familiar act of preparing dishes like kimchi that bring back memories from cherished late-night moments with her mother.

While the book celebrates Zauner and her mother’s deep connection through food and shared cultural experiences, it also candidly explores the challenges and tensions that marked their relationship. Zauner describes her mother’s love as having transcended conventional notions of affection. This “tougher than tough love” was a challenging and painful feeling she would only share with her mother—a force that both nurtured and tested her, shaping her identity and resilience.

I’m not one to cry when reading books, but Crying in H Mart was an exception. Towards the end of her mother’s life until her eventual passing in October 2014, Zauner assumes responsibility as her mother’s caretaker. One day, as the water drains from the bathtub after she helps her mother shower, Zauner notices her mother staring at the large clumps of missing hair in the mirror—the same mirror where she had watched her mother religiously apply Korean skincare products, pose in her new outfits, and admire herself now showed an unrecognizable stranger. Zauner describes the experience of seeing her role model and best friend become weak and vulnerable as a heart-wrenching experience. During the time she has before her mother’s death, Zauner helps her mother and reciprocates the love that her mother continually showed her, beautifully navigating the themes of the fragility of life and the cyclical nature of love.

Overall, Crying in H Mart is a mesmerizing memoir that unfolds as a powerful and emotional journey through love, loss, and cultural identity. Michelle Zauner’s vulnerability and honesty make this narrative a captivating and relatable read, while her skillful storytelling and poignant reflections make it a compelling testament to resilience and love.

Stay tuned for next week’s review! Until next time. 🙂 – Kavya 

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About the Contributor
Kavya Chettur, Senior Staff Writer
Kavya Chettur ('25) is excited to be a Senior Staff Writer for The Echo! She is interested in covering stories related to current events, student life, and science. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, playing lacrosse, and spending time with her friends and puppy, Benji. She looks forward to sharing her writing with an audience.