The past two years have been a whirlwind for Japanese Breakfast lead singer Michelle Zauner. She’s headlined at music festivals, performed on Saturday Night Live, landed two Grammy nominations and her 2021 memoir, “Crying in H Mart,” is a New York Times bestseller and is now made into a movie.
Sitting down with CNN, Zauner said her recent success has been “surreal and certainly validating,” while emphasizing how much her work has been shaped by the grief of losing her mother.
In 2014, Zauner’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She died a few months later. Growing up, the 33-year-old viewed her Korean mother as very judgmental and judgmental, often hindering her independence, creativity and passion, although she now acknowledges it was how she expressed her love for her daughter. His sudden death left Zauner “deprived of such a beautiful moment” when the two could have connected as adults.
“Growing up mixed race and suddenly losing what attached me to that part of myself suddenly felt like I was in danger in a way that I had never felt before,” she said.
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Shortly after her death, she began finding comfort shopping at H Marts, a grocery chain specializing in Asian cuisine. In her aisles, which feature many beloved Asian snacks, she was flooded with memories of her mother and the experiences they shared before her diagnosis.
Writing “Crying in H Mart” was Zauner’s way of making sense of his mother’s passing and reconnecting with his Korean heritage.
“It brings me great comfort when memories of my mother make me smile, but it also brings me great comfort to still cry for her,” she said.
“It’s such an intense raw feeling to remember her and have a little memory that knocks you off your feet.”
After releasing his memoir, Zauner released Japanese Breakfast’s third album “Jubilee” later in 2021.
“It was time to start a new chapter creatively,” Zauner explained.
“I wanted to write an album about giving myself permission to feel joy, finally allowing joy into my life, the joys of doing what I do for a living, which is just a ticket full lottery.”
Zauner likes to think her mother would be proud of her. Now Zauner plans to move to South Korea, to connect with the culture and learn Korean. She is also thinking about her next project.
“I think it’s a very natural desire to want to document the present, and I think it’s a really fascinating idea that a lot of people are interested in,” she said.
“That’s what excites me about writing my next book.