A Fan Letter to Michell Zauner, after reading <Crying in H Mart>
You don’t know me but I feel like I know you a bit after reading your book, <Crying in H Mart>. I chuckled, smiled, felt deeply resonated, and cried as I was reading your story. Part of it is perhaps because I am also a Korean American like you. But most of it is because your story is a story about one trying to understand oneself and finding a way to accept oneself the way they are through the most primal relationship in our life, with mother.
When I finished reading your book, I was on a family vacation in Colorado, near Pikes Peak. I was enjoying the slow time with my husband’s warm and loving family, surrounded by the beautiful Aspen trees and the Rocky Mountain in a distance, intermittently interrupted by laughters of my stepdaughter and her cousins.
Internally, I was grappling with my mom’s text message. She was telling me how hurt she felt by my message the other day. Like many tumultuous relationships between mothers and daughters, mine is similarly characterized by constant uneasiness between two of us. This isn’t new but almost three decades long, since I was 15.
My mom’s not the Mommy Mom kind you talked about in your book. The parts in your book that made me chuckle so much was how your mom expressed her care through utterly honest comments that borderline with criticism, such as “You look ugly in that hair style — why don’t you go get a new one?” or “You look fatter than the last time I saw you.”
But my mom is not like your mom either. She’s never content with her situations so always trying to prove herself to everyone in her life. She tells me she’s doing it for me and my brother, but I know better now it has nothing to do with us. It’s ironic that she consciously ignored the deepest needs of me and my brother in that process of pursuing her forever distant dreams. All I wanted was a mom who I could share mundane stuff in life and do extraordinarily common things together, such as going to see an exhibition or shopping. All I wanted was her presence in random moments of my life, but she was mostly absent.