Essay My Year Of Meats

A cross-cultural tale of two women brought together by the intersections of television and industrial agriculture, fertility and motherhood, life and love — the breakout hit by the celebrated author of A Tale for the Time Being.

Ruth Ozeki’s mesmerizing debut novel has captivated readers and reviewers worldwide. When documentarian Jane Takagi-Little finally lands a job producing a Japanese television show that just happens to be sponsored by an American meat-exporting business, she uncovers some unsavory truths about love, fertility, and a dangerous hormone called DES.

Soon she will also cross paths with Akiko Ueno, a beleaguered Japanese housewife struggling to escape her overbearing husband.

Hailed by USA Today as “rare and provocative” and awarded the Kirayama Prize for Literature of the Pacific Rim, My Year of Meats is a modern-day take on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle for fans of Michael Pollan, Margaret Atwood, and Barbara Kingsolver.

 

My Year of Meats: Hybridization, Race Issues

Bhamini Nadarajan 12/11/2001Ruth Ozeki’s captivating debut novel, My Year Of Meats “dips into a widevariety of serious issues: the role of women in America and Japan, stereotypes, racism,relationships, artistic freedom, and of course, the meat industry.” With its many plots andsub-plots, the major ones however, center around Jane Takagi-Little – the Japanese-American documentary filmmaker of the “My American Wife” episodes, sponsored bythe BEEF-EX to promote meat consumption of the people in Japan – and Akiko Ueno,the Japanese wife. The families that we are introduced to through Jane’s documentarywork are each unique as much as they are varied – from Black to White and fromMexican to Asian. There is a subtle commonality that unites these apparently differentcharacters, which to Jane is all about their “authenticity” and “wholesomeness”. Anoffensive John Ueno, associated with the advertising agency sponsored by the BEEF-EX,is no less real but is one who has disconnected himself from his own authenticity and sodoes not perceive it in others like Jane or Akiko. We may recognize that for Ueno tomove beyond his racist and other conflicting attitudes, his willingness is required, toidentify and take responsibility for his own transformation. Just as in Ueno, if discriminatory perspectives is held among individuals in a society in spite of having politically achieved equal human rights, it becomes the responsibility of the individualsto move beyond the limiting views, embrace our oneness as humans and evolve intowholesome individuals, much like Jane and Akiko – as Akiko empowers herself as thenovel progresses.

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