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Discussion Guide

Crying in H Mart: A Memoir

By Michelle Zauner

NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band—and meeting the man who would become her husband—her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

This discussion guide was shared and sponsored in partnership with Penguin Random House.

Discussion Questions

Use these discussion questions to guide your next book club meeting.

“My mother was always trying to shape me into the most perfect version of myself” (p. 18). What do Michelle’s mother’s habits and beliefs reveal about her as a mother? What value do you see in her approach to parenting, and what would you do differently?

How does Michelle’s relationship with her mother evolve over the course of the memoir?  Compare their relationship with other parent-child relationships in the memoir and with your own experience.

H Marts and local supermarkets are a regular setting in the book. How do these locations shape Michelle’s experience of food and family?

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, Time, NPR, Washington Post, VogueEntertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, Philadelphia Inquirer, Goodreads, BuzzFeed, and more • One of President Obama's Favorite Books of the Year

“Michelle Zauner on Turning Her Bestselling Memoir Into a Film and Japanese Breakfast’s Two Grammy Nominations” via Variety


“In prose and in song, Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner searches for connection and meaning” via Los Angeles Times


“When Her Mother Died, She Found Solace at a Korean Grocery” via New York Times