If you're a meat lover, you will probably find parts of MY YEAR OF
MEATS disturbing, but that shouldn't prevent you from reading this
wonderful, strong, funny novel. Just be prepared to learn a few
things about the meat industry that you might prefer not to know.
If, on the other hand, you happen to be a vegetarian, you will no
doubt find many of your convictions reinforced by the meat industry
practices that Ruth Ozeki reveals in her first novel.
MY YEAR OF MEATS tells the story of two women --- Jane and Akiko
--- who come to know each other through a series of documentaries
that Jane is hired to produce for the Japanese market. The series,
called My American Wife, is sponsored by the beef industry, and
each program is supposed to feature a "normal" American family
preparing wholesome meals that feature meat.
After Jane is hired to produce the programs, she receives a
memorandum about the series that reads:
TO: American Research Staff
FROM: Tokyo Office
DATE: January 5, 1991
RE: My American Wife
Here is list of IMPORTANT THINGS for My American Wife
1. Attractiveness, wholesomeness, warm personality
2. Delicious meat recipe (NOTE: Pork and other meats is second
class meats, so please remember this easy motto: "Pork is Possible
but Beef is Best")
3. Attractive, docile husband
4. Attractive, obedient children
5. Attractive, wholesome lifestyle
6. Attractive, clean house
1. Physical imperfections
4. Second class peoples
Initially the job is a dream come true for Jane, and she has fun
going around the country filming a different family every week. But
as Jane becomes more familiar with her subject, she becomes
increasingly aware of the beef industry's practice of using
synthetic hormones on their cattle, and she decides to sabotage the
program by filming less desirable families.
Enter Akiko Ueno, a young Japanese housewife, whose brutish,
abusive husband, John, is in charge of the show's advertising. Each
week Akiko watches the program and dutifully prepares the meals
demonstrated. She becomes increasingly radicalized by the programs
as she realizes how much her life lacks, and she beings to think
about ways to escape from the life-threatening abuse she endures.
After she sees an episode featuring a vegetarian lesbian couple,
she contacts Jane, and the women become friends.
The lives of these two very different women living across the globe
from one another collide in this shocking and fascinating novel.
Jane's "year of meats" changes the course of her life. Akiko's life
is also dramatically changed by her friendship with Jane.
MY YEAR OF MEATS is both compassionate and satirical, but it will
make you think twice about what you eat for dinner.
-- Reviewed by Dana H. Schwartz
My Year of Meats