Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. Best known - at least for now - as an indie pop singer and guitarist who performs under the name Japanese Breakfast, Zauner has produced a powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity. The book sits near the top of independent bookstore bestseller lists less than a month after its publication. The H Mart in the title is a Korean-American supermarket chain that serves as both muse and refuge for Zauner, who first introduced readers to the “beautiful, holy place" in a 2018 essay for The New Yorker about the death of her mother, Chongmi, from cancer four years earlier. That essay appears as the first chapter of the book and kicks off her story.

Zauner grew up as one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon, struggling with her mother's high expectations of her. She went to college on the East Coast, finding work in the restaurant industry, performing gigs with her fledgling band, and meeting her future huband. With all that came a distancing from her Korean heritage, at least until her mother's terminal cancer diagnosis that forced - at age 25 - Zauner's reckoning with her identity and a desire to recapture the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

In her review of the book, NPR's Kristen Martin said, “Crying in H Mart powerfully maps a complicated mother-daughter relationship . . . The book is a rare acknowledgement of the ravages of cancer in a culture obsessed with seeing it as an enemy that can be battled with hope and strength. Zauner plumbs the connections between food and identity . . . her food descriptions transport us to the table alongside her. What Crying in H Mart reveals is that in losing her mother and cooking to bring her back to life, Zauner became herself.”