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Michelle Zauner's Brief But Spectacular take on making the ordinary beautiful
Geoff Bennett: Michelle Zauner is a Korean American author and musician best known as the lead vocalist of the alternative pop band Japanese Breakfast.
Tonight, Zauner shares her Brief But Spectacular take on making the ordinary beautiful.
Michelle Zauner, Author and Musician: My mother was a homemaker, and I was an only child. And so we were really bonded very early on.
I think it was 2014 when she told me that she had stage four cancer. Being an only daughter, I knew I had to kind of take everything on my desk, completely clear it go home, and be with her from beginning to end.
In six months, I suddenly found myself unemployed, married without a mother and estranged from my father. And I don't think I could quite wrap my head around everything that had happened until I started putting it down on paper.
The first line of "Crying in H Mart" is: "Ever since my mom died, I cry in H Mart."
And I think, in a way, the book is very much about answering that question of, like, why are you crying in a grocery store? H Mart is a Korean grocery chain. I drove to H Mart to be surrounded by her language and the foods that she loved and that we shared together.
I don't think I thought much about her impending death as a part of losing my culture until after it happened. I think I probably realized that once I like went to Korean grocery store, and I realized, like, I couldn't just call my mom anymore to ask her, like, what brand of seaweed we used to buy or, like, what kind of doenjang soybean paste we had at home.
I would say food was a big part of the way that my mother expressed her love. The way that she expressed her affection was really rooted in actions, always remembering the kinds of food that you liked and the kinds of foods that you didn't like and what you would want after a long day.
And I don't think I realized that until I was a little bit older. It's been really fun to see, like, people from all different types of cultures comparing different grocery stores or different types of food or different food memories to the book.
I think one of my favorite things that has come back to me about the book is children who have told me: I read your book and I called my mom. I hugged my mom. I took her out to lunch.
My name is Michelle Zauner, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on making the ordinary beautiful.
Geoff Bennett: And you can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.