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New York Times

When her mother died, she found comfort in a Korean grocery store

New York — After an hour of discussions about her mother, the posthumous world, and the shamelessness needed to make art, Michelle Sauner adjusted her video camera to show Bushwick’s apartment in Brooklyn. Her coffee table suddenly appeared and was covered with Jollypon cereal snacks, Nongshim shrimp crackers, Lotte Maran Cow milk candy, and other Asian junk food. “I was talking all the time,” she said. “You were in front of these snacks.” These are her favorite selections from H Mart, a Korean-American supermarket chain that acts as both a muse and a shelter for her. Best known for his music project “Japanese Breakfast,” Sauner wrote in New Yorker’s 2018 essay “Crying in H Mart” about “a beautiful and holy place” and the death of his mother, Jeong Mi. With the same name that Knopf published on Tuesday. In an essay, the first chapter of her book to sign up for the morning newsletter from The New York Times, she conveyed her sadness, appetite, and fear after losing Jeongmi to cancer in 2014. What if there is no one left to ask for the brand of seaweed we previously purchased? The rest of the memoir explores her identity as an interracial Asian-American, the bonds that food can build, and her efforts to understand and remember her mother. Sauner’s parents met in Seoul in the early 1980s, and his father, Joel, moved from the United States to Seoul to sell cars to the US and Canadian troops. Jeong-mi worked at the hotel where he stayed. They got married after three months of dating, traveled back to Japan, Germany and South Korea, and then landed in Eugene, Oregon, where Michelle Sauner grew up. In an early draft of this book, she said in our interview how her mother got married so early, faced a language barrier with her husband, and uprooted herself over and over again. He said he tried to imagine what it was. When she asked her father a question, such as “Do you remember her feelings?”, He answered with geographical facts and numbers. As with many immigrant stories, shortage has gone through many of the things Sauner found while writing a book. In their family, her father was so focused that she couldn’t give her the emotional support she was looking for while her mother was watching. Identity is at stake, mostly as a waste of energy. “I feel like she was impressed with a part of the book,” Sauner said. “But I think there’s something she thinks. You’re like an American child.” Sauner, 32, said the mother’s calm restraint and the need to express herself, “I I write about their unstable relationship, in contrast to the sense of urgency that no one could understand what they had experienced. Everyone needed to know. After graduating from Bryn Mawr, he joined the Philadelphia rock band Little Big League in 2011 before becoming independent as a Japanese breakfast. Her first two solo albums, like her memoirs, focused on sadness: 2016 “Psycho Pump” and 2017 “Soft Sound From Another Planet”. Her next album “Jubilee” will be released in June. Inspired by Kate Bush, Bjork and Randy Newman, it’s even more fun. Between these projects, she worked on the soundtrack for video games, directed music videos, and plunged into the world of literature. This reflects her maximalist and, of course, a shameless approach to creativity. “What about Michelle is that you need to push her a little in that direction-affirmation-and suddenly she’s just flying,” said Daniel Torday, Bryn Mawr novelist and director of the creative writing program. Said Zauner’s mentor. For her, whether it’s her music or her writing, the artistic process often feels consuming everything she deals with by working through it and creating anxiety. “If you’re going to take the time to work on something, you want to be afraid of it,” Sauner said. And there’s the horrifying part she faces when looking back on the last few months of her mother’s life. It’s not exactly cancer — in the book she crushes bicodin for her mother with a spoon and sprinkles its blue crumbs “like a sprinkle of drugs” on an ice cream scoop. Explaining the illness. Jeong-mi was dying at the best of their relationship during “a kind of renaissance period when they really enjoyed each other’s company and came to know each other as adults.” In 2014, she returned home to help take care of her. Jeong-mi died in October, two weeks after Michelle Sauner married his fellow musician Peter Bradley. By Christmas, he joined her and her father in Eugene and navigated together the first heavy moments of their new life — “like adult baptism,” Bradley said. She and her father have been out of contact for over a year, except for treatment attempts through Zoom. After her mother died, “our sorrow couldn’t be together in a way that we could experience it together,” Sauner said. “He started hearing this big ruby, then put on a big tattoo, lost 40 pounds and started dating this young woman, and it felt like a kind of second death.” Published this month. In a Harper’s Bazaar essay, she wrote about the pain of the experience and then sought a way to relieve his new relationship with him. In a telephone interview, Joel Zauner expressed sadness about their alienation. He avoided reading “Crying in H Mart” for months (Michel Sauner sent him a pre-copy), but when he read it, he cried all the time and was not included in the acknowledgments. I was stabbed. He said the tattoo was made on the anniversary of Jeong Mi’s death, which is her name in Korean, with the Korean word meaning “lover” underneath. “I’m not the perfect man,” he said. “But I’m certainly worth more than given in both the article and the book.” Today, Sauner rocks this period of loss and feels just ready to tour, and perhaps. By living there for a year, there is still more I want to unpack about her being Korean. “I think I lack most of my sense of belonging because I can’t speak a language fluently,” she said, and she preserves the thread she has on the Korean side of her family. I am determined to do that. At some point she fell in love with Emily Kim. Emily Kim, known as Maangchi as “Korean Julia Child on YouTube,” found peace by peeling Korean pears. One long strip of skin, as Jeong Mi once did. In 2019, the two starred in a side video exploring the impact of migration on cooking, and Kim cooked dinner on Sauner’s 30th birthday. “She is a real Korean daughter,” Kim said. However, Sauner is wary of her work related to anti-Asian attacks over the past year. “I’m scared to use this tragedy to promote what I’ve created,” she said in an email the day after the shooting in Atlanta. “It’s a little difficult to summarize my feelings for such a heavy thing in a few words.” Her belief system is more subtle than before. She is an atheist, “but then there must be some dirt on the edges for me,” she said. “In a sense, it’s impossible that my mother doesn’t feel like she’s looking for me because of the fateful way that happened in my life.” Almost a year ago, “Crying in H Mart.” When she finished writing, she closed her eyes, smiled gently, held a draft of the book in her hand, and posted her photo in the living room with the caption “Happy Mother’s Day.” , Mom. “According to Zauner, it can be important to create an ambiguous space for things, even if it goes against everything you believe in.” Like when I leave flowers in her grave, I technically know that what I’m doing is leaving flowers for myself. I create a ritual by doing this and commemorate her in my time But that’s not enough for me to feel okay about it, “she said. “I have to believe she knows they are there.” This article was originally published in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company