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Japanese Breakfast on Her Most Jubilant Year Yet: “It’s Beyond My Realm of Comprehension”

One bestselling memoir and two Grammy nominations later, Michelle Zauner discusses her wild 2021

japanese breakfast 2021
Japanese Breakfast, photo by Peter Ash
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    Our 2021 Annual Report continues with a wrap-up interview with Japanese Breakfast. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2021. You can find it all in one place here.


    Michelle Zauner is in a monochromatic beige hotel room in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The musician and author spent the previous evening at her alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, to do a reading and Q&A surrounding her New York Times bestselling memoir Crying In H Mart. “My old professor is very proud,” Zauner tells Consequence over Zoom. “It was a great way to wrap up the year.”

    Zauner has had one whirlwind of a year to wrap up. Up until the critical and commercial success of Crying In H Mart, she was better known by her indie rock moniker, Japanese Breakfast. Her third album, Jubilee, came out last June, and it nabbed her two Grammy nominations for Best Alternative Album and Best New Artist (as well as making our Top Albums of 2021 list).

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    Our conversation takes place just a week after the Grammy news, and she’s yet to shake the disbelief — a few giddy “what the fuck?”s pepper our conversation.

    “I’m still just a DIY kid!” she exclaims. “Of course, you hope for those things, but it seems like a complete miracle and totally bonkers that they actually happen.”

    Crying In H Mart details Zauner’s blurred relationship with her Korean identity through food and her mother, Chongmi, who died of pancreatic cancer when Zauner was 25. Their relationship was tumultuous at times: As soon as a teenaged Zauner first became enamored with the Pacific Northwest indie rock scene of the 2000s, she picked up a guitar and set her sights on becoming a musician herself. Though Chongmi’s resistance led to some gutting feuds between the two, Zauner didn’t look back.

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