- Quyen B. Nguyen, Ph.D.
Crying in H Mart + Japanese Breakfast
I love music, and time was when I collected albums and spent time listening to album after album. Japanese Breakfast was one of those bands. Maybe classify under experimental indie pop rock or something like that. I went back and listened to their
three albums in chronological order – progressing from lo-fi to more polished and jubilant – from more autobiographical to perhaps less so. The latest album Jubilee – in some ways a companion to the memoir Crying in H Mart – is a joy to listen to. By the way
Japanese Breakfast’s first album Psychopomp was written by Michelle Zauner after losing her mother. The album cover art is an old photograph of her mother reaching out her hand to perhaps the photographer.
Crying in H Mart is the memoir by Michelle Zauner who is Japanese Breakfast and who is hapa. Michelle’s mom is Korean, and her father is Jewish-American. Her story is a telling + sharing of navigating the in between of two cultures, of growing up Asian American. It’s exploring the complicated relationships with parents. It’s also the crying with the loss and death of her mother to cancer – chronicling the caregiving / dying, the death, and the aftermath. It’s about food in culture, in the relationships with loved ones, in healing and (re)connecting, in memories and experiences. It’s about the years-long/life-long pursuit of a creative/music career, which took off for Michelle aftergrief and loss.
I found myself crying and getting teary-eyed, getting hungry and looking up different Korean dishes, re-listening to the Japanese Breakfast albums, thinking about my own experiences as an Asian American.
Great memoir read! Great album(s) listen too!
Essay “Real life: Loss, love, and kimchi” 2016
Japanese Breakfast Tiny Desk Concert 2017