If your book club is ready for a memoir, Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner might be the perfect book for you! A New York Times best seller, New York Times notable book of the year, and one of President Obama’s favorite reads of 2021, among other acclaim, this powerful memoir ties together grief and food in a unique way that your book club will be talking about for ages. To get ready for your next book club meeting, check out our guide for how to run a book club, and then look over the Crying in H Mart book club discussion questions we’ve prepared to help your discussion run smoothly!
Crying in H Mart Summary
Michelle Zauner grew up as one of the only Korean American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon. With a Korean mom and a white dad, she struggled with her identity, feeling disconnected from her Korean roots. Anxious to get away from her mother’s high expectations, she left home for the east coast and formed a rock band. Then, when she was twenty-five, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and Zauner went back to the Pacific Northwest to care for her.
Crying in H Mart Themes
Identity, Culture, Art, Food, Family
Crying in H Mart Book Club Ideas
Before you launch into your discussion, it might be helpful to come up with an icebreaker question to help get the conversation flowing. These can be silly or fun, and are not meant to be taken too seriously. For this discussion, you might ask your group, What’s the most interesting place you’ve traveled to, and/or where would you like to travel?
Bonus: Before there was a book, there was a New Yorker essay. If your book club is deciding between Crying at H Mart and another memoir, you might read the essay to decide if you want to read the rest of Zauner’s story. (Warning: like the book, this essay may make you hungry and/or sad!)
Crying in H Mart Discussion Questions
- In Crying at H Mart, Zauner jumps back and forth between the past and the present. Did you find this an effective narrative choice?
- Although it has many themes, Crying at H Mart focuses a lot on grief and caregiving. How well do you think it handled those topics? Have you experienced any of the things portrayed in the book?
- Zauner grew up mixed race and talks about feeling not Korean enough, while also idealizing whiteness. If you have experience growing up mixed race, how does it compare to hers? If you do not, were you surprised by anything she experienced?
- Food is another major theme in the book. Do you associate any particular foods with your memories, your family, or your culture? Talk about those associations. Are they positive?
- Zauner felt that her mother had high expectations for her, but she also says, “My mother was always trying to shape me into the most perfect version of myself.” How does her perception of her mother change throughout the book?
- Music is very important to Zauner, and she is also known for her project Japanese Breakfast. Listen to their album Jubilee (or a selection of songs) and discuss how it complements Crying in H Mart.
- Would you read another book by Michelle Zauner? If yes, why? If no, why not?
- What similar titles would you recommend to those in this group who enjoyed Crying in H Mart?
We recommend: Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (fiction), Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden, Interior Chinatown by Charles Wu (fiction), Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin (fiction)
Looking for more great book club content or recommendations? Check out our list of the best memoirs of 2021! And if you want another memoir for your book club right now, check out our book club guide to Born a Crime by Trevor Noah!
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