Memoir ‘Crying in H Mart’ Soon to Have Audiences Crying in Theaters

Crying in H Mart book cover. (Courtesy Michelle Zauner)

“Crying in H Mart” book cover. (Courtesy Michelle Zauner)

By Avery Greig, Arts Writer

 

Michelle Zauner, better known as shoegaze-pop artist Japanese Breakfast, made a leap from songwriting to publishing with the release of her personal memoir “Crying in H Mart.” What started as a New Yorker article of the same name became a story of Zauner’s coming-of-age search for identity following the loss of her mother, told through a combination of food and family.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the New York Times Bestseller will soon reach the theaters in a feature film adaptation. Time to grab your popcorn and kimchi.

Music and Memoir

The first time I listened to Japanese Breakfast, I was on a Spotify deep dive scouring playlists for a sound that could quench my thirst for new music. “Everybody Wants to Love You” poured through my headphones — a sweet mixture of 80s synths, rolling harp, and steady tambourine. I was simply hypnotized, and my playlists began to overflow with Japanese Breakfast’s discography. The cover art for “Everybody Wants to Love You” shows Zauner’s mother and aunt as young girls.

I asked for a copy of “Crying in H Mart” for my 20th birthday and read it cover-to-cover in a short span of a few days. Teary-eyed, I realized how intertwined Zauner’s identity and art are, from her album art to lyrics. 

The memoir explores sense of self via Zauner’s own exploration of her Korean heritage. The artist was born in Seoul, South Korea and migrated to Eugene, Oregon with her Korean mother and American father at a young age.

Zauner, as an author, colorfully integrates the pressures of growing into herself, experiencing teenage isolation from her Korean identity, as well as her ascent in the music industry. She describes making doenjang jjigae the morning after her mother’s death, laboriously learning how to make kimchi with YouTuber Maangchi and breaking down in Korean-American grocery chain H Mart, unable to identify the right brands of foods and yearning for her mother’s cooking.

Grief in Text

Zauner’s aptitude as a songwriter flourishes in nonfiction. Her descriptions are punctuating, her honesty is brutal and her vulnerability is one that lingers, begging to be re-read over and over.

The most striking element of Zauner’s writing is her ability to describe grief. The memoir is an intricate blend of timelines, and yet Zauner is able to gracefully illuminate grief beyond single events of “before” and “after.”

Zauner is one of those authors who is able to speak the world in a few, short words that leave you thinking for days. Her memoir proves that it’s never too late to discover where you come from and that there is always something new to discover about yourself.

Ascent to the Screen

MGM label Orion Pictures is set to adapt the memoir into a film, with Zauner’s act Japanese Breakfast fittingly creating the soundtrack. In a statement for Harpers Bazaar, Zauner said, “It is a surreal thrill to have the opportunity to memorialize my mother in film, and I consider it of the highest honor to pursue that task alongside creative luminaries such as Stacey Sher, Jason Kim and Orion Pictures.”

The film is yet to be produced, but while we wait, it’s best to keep a copy of “Crying in H Mart” and a box of tissues close at hand.

 

“Crying in H Mart” is available wherever books are sold, and Japanese Breakfast’s new album “Jubilee” is streaming now.

 

[email protected]

@theaveinaverge