I’ve been using CloudLibrary quite a bit over the last several months as it allows me to discover books even when the library isn’t open. One book that caught my attention while I was browsing was Tastes Like War by Grace M. Cho. The first sentence of the description mentioned both food and family history, so I was already determined to read it. I was even more intrigued by the rest of the description because it explains that the author wrote this book as part of her journey to understanding her mother as a person with schizophrenia. A family member had the same struggle, so this topic is personal to me.
The circumstances between my relative and the author’s mother are very different, however. The author is the daughter of a Korean woman, who immigrated to the U.S., and an American man who was in the military during the Korean War. This is incredibly significant as the author dives deep into researching what life was like for Koreans, especially Korean women, particularly during the Korean War, but including some context prior to and since that time. She weaves together the various elements of her mother’s life – her experiences in Korea, her experiences as an immigrant, the role food played in her life and how it changed dramatically, the onset of schizophrenia – as she strives to understand why her mother became ill. She describes her own experiences as a mixed-race child and the impact of her mother’s illness on her own choices, particularly in education.
Tastes Like War is not an easy read as it discusses topics that can be difficult. However, it is enlightening, informative, touching. It felt, to me, a bit like a love story of a daughter and mother.