Tastes Like War starts in 1976 and ends in 2008. The memoir jumps through time, going between Cho’s childhood, her adolescent years, her young adulthood, and the years before her mother died. How does this structure influence the way we read the story? How does it help Cho tell her story?
The author allowed us to follow, what feels like, a live train of thought through memories. It’s an honest but also historical explanation of life. This structure lets us connect to the author on a deeper level by allowing us to feel like we are with her through this journey of thought. I feel like the way that I process my thoughts and memories was replicated by the author’s story structure.
First, it took a little to get used to this structure. Memories have no linear time lines. The telling is alive, we are right there with mom and daughter, can experience what they experience.
I think the structure of the book helps establish how time is alive and fluid for all of us, especially the mom dealing with schizophrenia and the author remembering these different versions of her mother. Things like food will trigger a memory and take the author back in time to remember other versions of her mother or vignettes from her childhood that contribute to her current identity and struggles. I really enjoyed the way the author structured time in this book as it also kept me engaged as a reader and prevented the book from becoming repetitive or predictable.
We learn the possible reasons for her mother’s schizophrenia in the same order as the author does, but Cho gives us her anthropological background understanding of South Korea. So when the mother starts acting paranoid, we have sat in the car when she was legitimately enraged as her family was stalked by a carload of racists, and we understand how schizophrenia is located in world demographics. Cho contextualizes her mother’s mental illness, and by doing so, makes her mother a sympathetic character, despite the stigma surrounding schizophrenia.
The structure puts the reader in tune with the author. We feel her lifelong pain as the years pass.
The aftermath of sexual assault and war gives insight to our current conditions. The “Me Too” kicks in for the reader.
Our current situation of gun violence in America puts us in a war zone.
I feel the current Mental Health crisis in this country correlates with this book.
Not safe being a girl child rings true both globally and locally.