I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Se-hee | Book Review

“Once I turn my gaze, I see the more interesting aspects of life. And my gaze guides my behaviour. And my behaviour changes my life. I realise that I can’t change all by myself; what makes me really change are the myriad things of the universe that my gaze happens to rest upon. Through turning my gaze, I learn that the low points of life can be filled with countless realisations.”

Baek Se-hee is a successful young social media director at a publishing house when she begins seeing a psychiatrist about her–what to call it?–depression? She feels persistently low, anxious, endlessly self-doubting, but also highly judgemental of others. She hides her feelings well at work and with friends, adept at performing the calmness, even ease, her lifestyle demands. The effort is exhausting and overwhelming and keeps her from forming deep relationships. This can’t be normal. But if she’s so hopeless, why can she always summon a yen for her favourite street food, the hot, spicy rice cake, tteokbokki? Is this just what life is like? Recording her dialogues with her psychiatrist over a 12-week period, Baek begins to disentangle the feedback loops, knee-jerk reactions, and harmful behaviours that keep her locked in a cycle of self-abuse.11. I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki

This book had been appearing on my feeds as the book to read on the subject of mental health and relationships. I bought it sometime around Diwali last year and finally got around to reading it now, when I felt ready to understand and absorb what the author might have to say.

It is written as a transcript of the conversations between the author and her psychiatrist where she poses leading questions to the author and asks her to reflect on them. At the end of each session, she gives her a small task to accomplish and report back her observations.

After each chapter is a sort of diary entry with the author’s learning from the session, her revelations, and the next step she intends to take.

The conversations are about things that prevent us from building meaningful relationships, not only with strangers but also with people we’ve known for the longest time. It aims to ask you what holds you back and pushes you to subject yourself to an unhealthy standard.

The book is uncomplicated and easy to read. One can simply follow the chain of thought presented to reflect on your own life, comb through the mess inside and sort into a system that works in your favour.

We are all struggling with something at some point in life and a little push in the right direction can be of invaluable assistance: Focus less on how you look to other people and more on fulfilling your desires, achieving your dreams, and seeing everything that comes after as a bonus. I think this book can provide that – push you to see yourself as a real, living, breathing person who invites joy for themself.

I found this book to be deeply relatable, perhaps not on the larger scale, but in addressing specific aspects of my life. That is really the USP of this book and can hold immense meaning for someone looking for answers to questions they are unable to frame.

I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Se-hee. Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur. Published in June 2022 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Book 10 of 2023.

Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟.

Available on Amazon*.

About Photo: Tteokbokki is one of the most popular Korean street foods and I found this papercraft Tteokbokki cup on a crafter’s Naver blog – Tori Crafts that I had to pair with this book.
This is made from ivory paper and includes a cup, a packet of tteokbokki, seasoning mix and a fork.

11. I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokkib

About the Author: Born in 1990, Baek Se-hee studied creative writing in university before working for five years at a publishing house. For ten years, she received psychiatric treatment for dysthymia (persistent mild depression), which became the subject of her essays, and then I Want to Die, but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki, books one and two. Her favourite food is tteokbokki, and she lives with her rescue dog Jaram.
You can find her on Instagram.
About the Translator: Anton Hur is a writer and translator working in Seoul. He was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and raised in British Hong Kong, Ethiopia, and Thailand, but mostly in Korea, where he has lived for thirty years. He was awarded the title of Person of Distinguished Service to the Nation after serving in the Korean Army.
You can find Anton on Twitter and Instagram.

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