My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
(Penguin, 1991, 361 pages)
I read another Ozeki novel earlier this year, All Over Creation, and really enjoyed it so I was eager to check out My Year of Meats – her debut novel. While parts of it were hard to read (due to content) it was really well-written and kept me engaged.
Jane Takagi-Little is a documentarian living in New York City. She receives a call from one of her connections asking if she’d be interested in producing a show for Japanese TV that revolves around Americans and their meat consumption. Sponsored by Beef-Ex, the show would be a series of glorified advertisements showing American housewives and their families enjoying this staple in their diets – the goal is to get the Japanese population to eat more meat. As filming is underway we can see there’s a disconnect between the true “American” experience Jane wants to show and the “America” that the Japanese executives are looking for. We also delve a little deeper into Jane’s personal life and the those of a few other women whose lives she enters in some way or another.
As filming continues Jane starts picking up on some things about the meat industry that are on the “unsavory” side. She starts struggling with the idea that she’s responsible for promoting a product that can result in serious side effects.
I’m ready for my next Ozeki title, I’m definitely a fan of her work and the way she can work in relevant social issues without disrupting the rhythm of the story.