This week I’ve been listening to the audiobook, Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner, also narrated by the author. It’s been a very moving experience which has touched my heart in many different ways.
It is a memoir of a young woman, a talented musician (her band is called Japanese Breakfast) and the only daughter of a Korean mother and an American father. It is the story of her growing up between two cultures, of her relationship with her mother, and of the loss of her mother to cancer. It is a very honest and introspective book as she described the struggles between mother and teenage daughter, mother and young adult daughter, and the struggle to establish her own identity. It is a story of growth and grief, and of love and loss.
Her experiences were both unique and universal. I identified with many of the struggles of her teenage years (from my perspective as both a daughter and a mother), and I was fascinated with her cultural and language struggles with extended family. Michelle had just reached young adulthood when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was just at the time when her relationship with her mother began to settle into a more adult closeness after the struggles of the teenage years. The descriptions of her mother’s decline and death were heart wrenching, and I found myself in tears numerous times. I couldn’t help but remember and compare my own mother’s death three years ago, and appreciate once again what a kind death my mother had in comparison to the death of Michelle’s mother to the ravages of cancer with it’s prolonged decline. I just wanted to reach out and hug her and tell her how much I admire her honesty and the courage she showed in dealing with that devastating experience.
Michelle’s writing is beautiful. She is not only a talented musician, but is a very talented writer. I am hoping she continues to tell stories because I will look for and read any book she writes. This book is currently on the New York Times best seller list, so there was a long wait for it at the library. But I enjoyed listening to her own voice narrating it, so I highly recommend listening to the audiobook.
A favorite quote from the book:
I’ve just never met someone like you,” as if I were a stranger from another town or an eccentric guest accompanying a mutual friend to a dinner party. It was a strange thought to hear from the mouth of the woman who had birthed and raised me, with whom I shared a home for eighteen years, someone who was half me. My mother had struggled to understand me just as I struggled to understand her. Thrown as we were on opposite sides of a fault line—generational, cultural, linguistic—we wandered lost without a reference point, each of us unintelligible to the other’s expectations, until these past few years when we had just begun to unlock the mystery, carve the psychic space to accommodate each other, appreciate the differences between us, linger in our refracted commonalities. Then, what would have been the most fruitful years of understanding were cut violently short, and I was left alone to decipher the secrets of inheritance without its key.
An after-reading-the-book experience:
Food was a huge part of her relationship with her mother, so H Mart was an important part of this book. I had never heard of H Mart before, but since the author grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and the H Mart there is the one she wrote about, I thought it would be interesting to perhaps visit that particular store. In searching for it on the internet, I discovered that there are numerous stores even closer to home, so my sweet husband and I drove to Tigard yesterday morning for our first-ever shopping trip to H Mart. Yesterday’s pilgrimage won’t be our last, though, because we were thrilled with the produce and enjoyed shopping there. We came home with some wonderful baby bok choy, a fine looking napa cabbage, a variety of wonderful greens, some new instant noodles to try out, and all the regular weekly items on our shopping list. And since Korean food was such an important part of the book, I picked up the ingredients to try a new recipe I found for Korean Noodles with Black Bean Sauce. Yum!
My sister-in-law told me last week that instead of listening to her audiobooks when she and my brother go for their daily five-mile walks in the foothills of the mountains, she now listens to music. She says that when she started doing that, instead of being engrossed in story, she became much more aware of the beauty around her, and it expands the joy of her walking tremendously.
Our conversation came to mind when I listened to an Audible Original book written and read by Yo-Yo Ma, called Beginner’s Mind. It is a lovely thing to listen to, part memoir, part music, and part exploration of what “beginnings” mean.
Beginner’s Mind continues Ma’s passionate exploration of culture’s role in helping us to imagine and build a better future, asking each of us “to strip away preconceptions and reclaim a beginner’s mind…one open to new questions, new connections, new explorations, and unexpected answers.” As Ma tracks his own profound journey through “four stories of beginnings,” listeners gain insight into his past and discover how the cultural visionary continues to find hope in the endless possibility of human curiosity, creativity, and collaboration.
So this book really is the perfect combination for those of us who love to walk and listen at the same time. Its combination of story, music, and thought-provoking ideas is wonderful.
Long closed due to the pandemic, our library has finally reopened! Hallelujah! On Friday, I visited it for the first time in I can’t remember how long, and it was a delightful 20 minutes I spent there. They have excellent virus protection precautions in place, and as a result, we are restricted to a 30 minute time period. There were only two of us there, besides the librarians, so it was incredibly quiet. Oh, how I’ve missed being able to walk there and spend time exploring the stacks!
“The year was 4214 after Tangun of Korea, and 1881 after Jesus of Judea.” So begins Pearl S. Buck’s The Living Reed, an epic historical novel seen through the eyes of four generations of Korean aristocracy.”
I am completely caught up in Pearl S. Buck’s, The Living Reed: A Novel of Korea. Her writing is so elegant, and her storytelling carries you away. That’s why I love reading her novels.
I sure do miss this beautiful lady! This is my third Mother’s Day without her, and I think about her and miss her every single day. I still look up to her, as in this photo, with love and admiration. I was so fortunate to be her daughter, and I cherish the lifetime of memories I have of her.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i , was an exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden of her work created during nine weeks spent in Hawai’i in 1939. This accompanying book, edited by Joanna L. Groarke and Theresa Papanikolas, was a very interesting chronicle of O’Keeffe’s time spent there. She was hired by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole Food Company) to visit the territory and create a series of paintings that could be used in print advertisements. During the nine weeks she spent in the islands, she created numerous paintings that were very much in her style, took many snapshots, and wrote wonderful descriptions of her experiences in letters sent home to her husband, Alfred Steiglitz.
Also included in this book are interesting background essays about the culture and ecology of Hawaii, and of how the territory of Hawaii was perceived in the 1930s as a tropical paradise, an “alluring fantasy.” It was all very interesting to read, as a view of Hawaii through the talent of an artist I love and through stories about what life was like at that time on the islands.
I read this book for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” my effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Hawaii.