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caption: Author Grace M. Cho
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Author Grace M. Cho
Credit: Elliot Bay Book Company

'The ingredients for madness': Author Grace M. Cho’s memoir on colonialism, food, and love

Food memories are known to be some of the most vivid. A single sip or bite can instantly transport you to the past. Researchers have found that these types of memories can also prove to be a powerful tool for putting past events in context.

Author Grace M. Cho uses this tool to illuminate the complex relationship she held with her mother and her mother’s mental health.

In this talk presented by Elliot Bay Book Company, Cho discusses her new book Tastes Like War. The novel is “part food memoir, part sociological investigation," and examines Cho’s quest to understand her mother’s assent into schizophrenia by investigating the personal and historical events that contributed to it. By learning to cook her mother’s childhood meals, Cho discovers “not only the things that broke the brilliant, complicated woman who raised her—but also the things that kept her alive.”

Cho was joined in conversation by Elliot Bay Book Company’s Karen Maeda Allman. Together they discuss Cho’s upbringing in Chehalis, Washington, and the instances of xenophobia her family faced as Korean-Americans. Cho aims to shed a light on how mental illness is a social problem as much as a biological disease.

Grace M. Cho is the author of Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War, which received a 2010 book award from the American Sociological Association. Her writings have appeared in journals such as the New Inquiry, Poem Memoir Story, Contexts, Gastronomica, Feminist Studies, WSQ, and Qualitative Inquiry. She is an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.

This virtual talk was present by Elliot Bay Book Company on June 10.

Please note: This recording contains unedited language of an adult nature.