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My Year of Meats Paperback – March 1, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 203 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

At first glance, a novel that promises to expose the unethical practices of the American meat industry may not be at the top of your reading list, but Ruth Ozeki's debut, My Year of Meats is well worth a second look. Like the author, the novel's protagonist, Jane Takagi-Little, is a Japanese-American documentary filmmaker; like Ozeki, who was once commissioned by a beef lobbying group to make television shows for the Japanese market, Jane is invited to work on a Japanese television show meant to encourage beef consumption via the not-so-subliminal suggestion that prime rib equals a perfect family:
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
2. Obesity
3. Squalor
4. Second class peoples

The series, My American Wife!, initally seems like a dream come true for Jane as she criss-crosses the United States filming a different American family each week for her Japanese audience. Naturally, the emphasis is on meat, and Ozeki has fun with out-there recipes such as rump roast in coke and beef fudge; but as Jane becomes more familiar with her subject, she becomes increasingly aware of the beef industry's widespread practice of using synthetic estrogens on their cattle and determines to sabotage the program.

Cut to Tokyo where Akiko Ueno struggles through the dull misery of life with her brutish husband, who happens to be in charge of the show's advertising. After seeing one of Jane's subversive episodes about a vegetarian lesbian couple, Akiko gets in touch and the two women plot to expose the meat industry's hazardous practices. Romance, humor, intrigue, and even a message--My Year of Meats has it all. This is a book that even a vegetarian would love. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

As a writer, Ozeki draws upon her knowledge in documentary filmmaking cleverly to bring the worlds of two women together by utilizing the U.S. meat industry as a central link. Alternating between the voices of Jane (in the United States) and Akiko Ueno, the wife of Jane's boss (in Japan), Ozeki draws parallels in the lives of these two women through beef, love, television, and their desire to have children. Ozeki skillfully tackles hard-pressing issues such as the use and effects of hormones in the beef industry and topics such as cultural differences, gender roles, and sexual exploitation. Her work is unique in presentation yet moving and entertaining. Highly recommended for general fiction collections. [BOMC alternate selection.]?Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Stanton, C.
-?Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Stanton, CA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140280464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140280463
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Did you ever read "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair when you were in high school? I did, and for about a week afterwards my entire high school class were vegetarians. The descriptions of the meat packing industry at the turn of the century completely disgusted the majority of us, but eventually we went back to hamburgers on the assumption that "it was 90 years ago, it's much better now!"
I think I may start buying organic meats again, because this book gave me the same reaction. Like the main character, Jane, discovering the practices of the 20th century meat industry -- even with the FDA in charge -- has made me think again about what I'm eating.
Jane gets a job -- a dream job as she has no other and needs money -- to film a weekly series for Japanese television called "My American Wife." The show is to showcase different beef-based recipes in order to promote beef consumption in Japan. Jane meets many interesting families (think vegetarian lesbians -- these two were actually my favorite characters), eats some rather inspired beef-based dishes (beef fudge, for instance), and learns that there is more to the cow than just the cow.
What Jane ends up discovering is that not much has changed since Sinclair wrote The Jungle. Chemicals (such as DES, which really did cause a lot of health problems for mothers and infants in the 50s) and inhumane practices (you'll never believe what some of these cows are fed for dinner each night) are still in effect, and these result in meat that may not be as good for you as the FDA would like you to believe. The meat industry is still a market where more is better, no matter how you have to get it. Is it any wonder that people are getting sick?
Vegetarians will love this book.
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Format: Paperback
It is quite rare for me to be so completely enthralled and delighted by the 17th page of a book, and one from a debut novelist to boot. Which is why my disappointment at the appallingly bad last half of the book is so acute.
First, if I had to rate the first half on creativity, humor, style, etc. I would surely give this book FIVE stars. Ozeki is a beautiful writer, the phrases and descriptions are exquisite and delightful.The humor sharp, acerbic. In particular, the depiction of cultural clashes between the Japanese crew in America was extremely funny and well-done. Much insight, real honesty and real verisimilitude. And the segments on American families--beautiful, glorious, heartwarming.
But what happened?! As I moved toward the end, my grief was palpable: I cringed. I wailed. I wanted desparately to go back to the beginning. For me, everything went downhill after the silly relationship with Sloane. The main character Jane, who WAS so brash, funny and aggressive, starts to become wimpy, wishy-washy and clueless in the arms of Sloane. Should she have the baby or not? Should she commit to this guy or not? It became a case study of post-feminist angst and it tired pretty quickly.
Secondly, what happened to all those three-dimensional characters? While I agree with the author's views on the beef industry, the characters came off as fake, superficial and cliche. Evil cattle rancher. Busty, young stripper-wife of cattle rancher. Evil wife-beating Japanese man. Timid Japanese housewife. She pits heroic, "good" stock characters against the "bad" cardboard villains of the beef industry. For e.g., the quiet.
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Format: Paperback
A delightful part of reading certain good books is realizing that you've fallen in love with the protagonist. The experience is heightened if you come to this affection a little reluctantly and with distinct misgivings. But best of all is closing in on the conclusion thoroughly hooked, mincing along that classic balance between comedy and tragedy. "My," you suddenly think. "She's really not taking good care of herself. Say, this could end very badly. Oh, golly, not that..."
So it is with Jane Takagi-Little, the hero of Ruth Ozeki's "My Year of Meats." She first appears as an out-of-work (hungry) documentarian who gets an offer to work on a Japanese TV series to be called "My American Wife!" The series pretends to be about America and Americans, but really, "Meat is the message." Every week, a family of "real" Americans will share their life-and their favorite meat recipe. A council of beef producers (BEEF-EX) wants to sell Japanese housewives more meat. I was doubtful, but Jane needed to pay the rent. She bit.
Soon we're on the road with Jane and the meat show. The Japanese production crew needs her language and negotiating abilities to make TV programs with ordinary people. Right away we sense the exploitative flavor of making programs that are more interested in what people eat than who they are. But Jane is interested in people. Yet, she's definitely a edgy character-six androgynous feet tall with streaks of purple hair. First doubtful thing she does is take up with a vaguely menacing guy that she met through phone sex. Hmmm.
Just when we've had about enough of Jane for awhile, the narrative POV shifts to Akiko Ueno, a shy woman who watches My American Wife! at home in Japan and loves the show and really wants to eat more meat.
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