Two-hundred pages of transcripts from the therapy session of an insecure millennial woman doesn’t sound like an especially appealing read. Who would want to hear such indulgent, cringey confessions normally meant only for the nonjudgmental ears of a medical professional — and who would have the gall to publish their own? And yet, Baek Sehee’s “I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki” is a surprisingly compelling and genuinely useful mental health memoir.
Baek was in her 20s and working at a publishing house in South Korea when she started seeing a psychiatrist to treat dysthymia, a form of chronic depression characterized by persistent low self-esteem, hopelessness and a lack of energy or motivation, but which is less severe than major depression. In 2018, Baek published the transcripts from 12 weeks of sessions as a book. “I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki” became a bestseller in South Korea, was listed by rapper RM of BTS as one of his book recommendations and prompted a follow-up book in 2019. This year, it was published in English by Bloomsbury Publishing, with translations by Anton Hur.