Michelle Zauner on ‘Crying In H Mart’ and losing her mom to cancer, plus finding ‘Jubilee’ with new music

Growing up with her mother and father in Eugene, Oregon, Michelle Zauner took biannual trips to visit her mother’s family in Seoul. Photo courtesy of Michelle Zauner.

More than six years after her mother’s death, Michelle Zauner still cries, usually in the Korean grocery store H Mart. The store is a symbol of the time she had with her mother — their summer trips to see family in Seoul and the food they shared. 

But H Mart is also a symbol of what was taken from her when her mother died of cancer at 56, and how she had to forge her own identity as a Korean American who was separate from her mother. 

Zauner, who performs as indie rocker Japanese Breakfast, first wrote about the lingering trauma of mother’s death in an essay for the New Yorker called “Crying in H Mart.” She’s now turned it into a new book with the same name. 

Her grief also inspired her first two albums: “Psychopomp” (2016) and “Soft Sounds From Another Planet” (2017). But for her third album, out in early June, Zauner says was ready to write about joy. It’s called “Jubilee.” 

Good Food: Michelle Zauner (aka Japanese Breakfast) reflects on food and family in new memoir

Credits

Guest:

  • Michelle Zauner - aka “Japanese Breakfast,” author of “Crying in H Mart”