Grace M. Cho
Tastes Like War
Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. They were one of few immigrants in a xenophobic small town during the Cold War, where identity was politicized by everyday details—language, cultural references, memories, and food. When Grace was fifteen, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life.
Part food 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 at the table. And through careful listening 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.
Winner of the 2022 Asian/Pacific American Award in Literature
Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Nonfiction
A TIME and NPR Best Book of the Year in 2021
Grace M. Cho's memoir richly braids Korean meals, memories of a mother fighting racism and the onset of schizophrenia, and references ranging from Christine Blasey Ford's testimony to the essays of Ralph Ellison.
— Vanity Fair
An exquisite commemoration and a potent reclamation.
— Booklist (starred review)
Reviews for Tastes Like War
Cho hauntingly captures the fragility of life in its most painful and beautiful moments. This heartfelt and nuanced tribute is remarkable.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Powered by sharp, unflinching prose, Cho’s book is as much about her personal history as it is about the history of American hegemony in Asia — and the many scars it has left on the millions of people who have experienced it.
My impulse to call Grace M. Cho “a singular voice” exposes certain precepts of mine that, in light of her memoir, I’m inclined to rethink... To praise her literary and intellectual contributions along those lines alone would rudely bring out of register what is too complex a project to put down as a great book by a great mind.
— Full Stop
A wrenching, powerful account of the long-term effects of the immigrant experience.
Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War (2008)
Since the Korean War—the forgotten war—more than a million Korean women have acted as sex workers for U.S. servicemen. More than 100,000 women married GIs and moved to the United States. Through intellectual vigor and personal recollection, Haunting the Korean Diaspora explores the repressed history of emotional and physical violence between the United States and Korea and the unexamined reverberations of sexual relationships between Korean women and American soldiers.
Grace M. Cho exposes how Koreans in the United States have been profoundly affected by the forgotten war and uncovers the silences and secrets that still surround it, arguing that trauma memories have been passed unconsciously through a process psychoanalysts call “transgenerational haunting.” Tracing how such secrets have turned into “ghosts,” Cho investigates the mythic figure of the yanggongju, literally the “Western princess,” who provides sexual favors to American military personnel. She reveals how this figure haunts both the intimate realm of memory and public discourse, in which narratives of U.S. benevolence abroad and assimilation of immigrants at home go unchallenged. Memories of U.S. violence, Cho writes, threaten to undo these narratives—and so they have been rendered unspeakable.
At once political and deeply personal, Cho’s wide-ranging and innovative analysis of U.S. neocolonialism and militarism under contemporary globalization brings forth a new way of understanding—and remembering—the impact of the Korean War.
Winner of American Sociological Association – 2010 Asia & Asian America Section Outstanding Book Award
It's the human consequences that Cho most aims to detail—lovingly, with respect and lamentation.
— Women’s Review of Books
Korean American sociologist Cho understands the sociological imagination... Her book is a catharsis for a traumatically muted history.
This ground breaking, beautifully written book explores the painful and unexplored story of the Korean women whose pasts as prostitutes for American bases in Korea continue to haunt their families in the present.
— Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
An intriguingly unorthodox book that mixes scholarship and personal experience in ways rarely seen in traditional productions of those in academia. Haunting the Korean Diaspora is challenging and enlightening.
— Journal of International and Global Studies
Cho’s intensely personal and political study is a unique and important contribution to Korean and Korean American studies as there are still very few accounts and analyses of civilians that survived the Korean War and its aftermath and how their experiences consciously and unconsciously permeate the Korean diaspora in the United States.
— Journal of World History
...innovative in its methodology and arresting in content and analysis.
— Women’s Studies Quarterly
Reviews for Haunting the Korean Diaspora
Interviews & Publications
Tastes Like War: Grace M. Cho in Conversation with Patricia Clough
A Daughter's Search for Her Mother
Virginia Festival of the Book
with Jiyeon Yuh, Mia Charlene White and Yuri Doolan
My work sits at the crossroads of creative nonfiction and interdisciplinary scholarship, exploring the ways in which residues of state violence and historical trauma permeate the intimate spaces of the here and now. As a sociologist, I approach storytelling as an opportunity to broaden the lens through which readers see personal experience. I teach full time as a professor of sociology, food studies, gender studies, critical criminology, and disability studies at the City University of New York.