Tastes Like War: A Memoir

Finalist, National Book Awards 2021 for Nonfiction

ISBN 9781952177941
Feminist Press at the City University of New York
Grace M. Cho

Grace M. Cho is the author of Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War, which received an award from the American Sociological Association. More about this author >

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Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. When Grace was fifteen, her mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that first developed in their xenophobic small town and would evolve for the rest of her life.

Part memoir, part sociological investigation, Tastes Like War is a hybrid text about a daughter’s search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia. In her mother’s final years, Grace learned to cook dishes from her mother’s childhood in order to invite the past into the present, and to hold space for her mother’s multiple voices. And over these shared meals, Grace discovered not only the things that broke the brilliant, complicated woman who raised her but also the things that kept her alive.

Judges Citation

The ghosts of the past are given a seat at the dinner table in Tastes Like War, an intimate account of the historical violence behind a mother’s mental illness. Grace M. Cho documents the psychological toll of racism while exploring the redemptive power of food, which serves as her mother’s language when other forms of language fail. This extraordinary book exemplifies the innovative potential of memoir and reimagines the role of scholarship in a lived life.


Grace M. Cho, 2021 National Book Awards Nonfiction Finalist, reads from TASTES LIKE WAR