Book Recommendation: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

Sometime during my childhood, I learned that Heaven was under the feet of my mother. I was probably sitting in Sunday School, resenting that I was there instead of sleeping in, wishing to be anywhere else. What did it mean, that Heaven was beneath her feet? Was it a mobile place? Did I have to lift her to get in? For a long time, my mother was just my mother. She wasn’t the key to Heaven. And so it was in Please Look After Mom as well.

There are two questions swirling at the center of Please Look After Mom, a heartbreaking look at a family’s unraveling after its older, ailing matriarch goes missing at a subway station in Seoul. The first comes fast; it hits you hard, in the gut, and makes you think that if it were you, if it were your mom who had gotten lost, you would do whatever it took to find her. In fact, you would never lose your mother in the first place. You are so caring, so diligent a child that the prospect of not knowing your mom’s whereabouts is actually impossible. But is that true? If your mom got lost, would you pace the streets of your city, day in and day out, like you expect the characters here to do? Would you place ads in the paper and flyers on telephone poles? Would you revisit the subway station over and over? Well, would you? After a while, probably not. You have a life, a job, a family of your own. But you wonder, if this happened, would you do more than they did to find their lost mom?

Read the rest at PAPER/PLATES.


In which I poke fun at my inadequacies in the kitchen and idolize my mother

“Amina, yanh ao!”

What is wrong with this woman? She wants me to go over there? 

Jaldi se!”

Quickly? Okay, okay. Ten seconds to rinse my hands, 20 to the family room and…five full minutes to hear what she has to say? No, this is impossible.

As I’m standing there, trying to figure out how to stir my frying onions in the kitchen before inevitably receiving instructions from my mother in the family room, the fragrant cloud enveloping me turns suddenly bitter. I look down. What was a golden glowing nest a moment ago is now a charred tangle of slop.

Ruined. Again.

Read more: Cooking With My Pakistani Mother…And Losing