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My Year of Meat Paperback – 24 Jun 1998

4.7 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Paperback, 24 Jun 1998
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (24 Jun. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330370065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330370066
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,021,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon 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 Meatsis 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!, initially 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 bizarre 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 oestrogens on their cattle and determines to sabotage the programme.

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, humour, intrigue, and even a message--My Year of Meats has it all. This is a book that even a vegetarian would love.


'I had started my year as a documentarian. I wanted to tell the truth, to effect change, to make a difference. And up to a point, I had succeeded... I am haunted by all the things - big things and little things - that threaten to slip through the cracks, untold, out of history.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
I found this book unputdownable. This story follows Jane Takagi-Little's Year of Meat as she puts together a weekly television show for Japanese audiences promoting the so called 'wholesomeness' and healthiness of American meat, in particular beef. At the same time we follow a Japanese housewife's sad life in Tokyo and how she is changed by this show which she is told to watch by her brutal, dreadful husband. It sounds like an unlikely story to be riveted by, but I promise, it really is.
A friend of mine recommended this book to me as I have been, for the last 18 months or so, eating only organic food. I had been told about the hormones and antibiotics present in non-organic meat and dairy products, but didn't realise I knew so little about it until I read My Year of Meat. Having been a dedicated carnivore for most of my 32 years, I am now seriously considering turning totally vegetarian.
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I had never heard of the Japanese/American/Canadian novelist Ruth Ozeki before delightedly coming across her Booker shortlisted novel A Tale for the Time Being. I am now working through her hardly even handful of earlier titles

Like Time Being, My Year Of Meats, also published at one time as My Year Of Meat, is told in two voices, a hybrid American Japanese one, living in America, and a Japanese one, in Japan.

The Japanese voice is that of Akiko, a woman suffering hugely in a culture which is part way its own history, but also being bent and bending itself, into American obsession. The second voice is Jane, a version of Ozeki herself, a Westernised independent woman of Japanese American birth, born in the USA, who nevertheless is `hybrid' and therefore, whilst seeing herself as American, is viewed partly as outsider from both cultures, and indeed views both cultures from the outside.

Jane Tagaki-Little is a documentary film maker. The Beef Industry, keen to spread its markets more globally, is producing a series of real-life documentaries which are designed to sell more meat, and persuade Japanese people to `cook more American' exchanging a largely fish diet for one containing huge slabs of cow. The production company has to sell the product by selling the (artificial, air-brushed) corn-fed blonde view of the American family. The highlight of each programme in My American Wife involves cooking the slab of cow in some way, for example - in a tin of mushroom soup, rolled in dried onion soup after marinating in Coca-Cola (not Pepsi-Cola)

The programmes are car-crash rubberneckingly awful, and hysterically funny - Oprah confessional style, all at once.
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Format: Paperback
This is primarily the story of Jane Takagi-Little; half-American, half-Japanese; documentary-maker and modern woman. Jane becomes the director of a Japanese TV series called 'My American Wife', made for the Japanese market and sponsored by meat company BEEF-EX. It features meat dishes made by many and varied women, all of whom leave their mark on Jane in different ways. Despite objections from the executive in charge in Tokyo, Joichi Ueno (nickname John - geddit?!), Jane widens the scope of the programme, and starts to uncover a sinister trail of information about meat production in the USA. Joichi, for his part, a bully and wife-beater, tries to stop Jane revealing more of her discoveries, and his wife Akiko, desperate to have a baby, bears the brunt of his frustration. Add to this mix a sexy musician lover, a crazy camera crew and some lovely minor characters, and the end result is a tasty meal, one to get your teeth into - laugh, cry and flinch at some of the reality that is revealed. The way Jane and the others search for personal freedom and honesty in their lives and the meat industry is fascinating. A fabulous book - I recommend it to everyone.
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Format: Paperback
This book is more about culture and femininity than it is about meat, although the meat, like the sex, is a tantalizing treat that keeps reappearing; at times satisfying, at other times revolting. As an American who lives in Japan, I was particularly impressed with Ozeki's ability to show America through the eyes of her Japanese characters to whom concepts like infidelity and lesbianism have very different meanings than they do to Westerners. Ozeki isn't afraid to go against trendy American politically-correct sensibilities. This is both brave and necessary. When dealing with cross-cultural communication, cultural faux pas and misinterpretations are inevitable, and not to include them would be a cheat. Ozeki demonstrates her insight into the differences between Japanese and American culture, and through that, and through the relationship troubles of her two protagonists, a Japanese woman and an American woman, we can also find out what makes us all the same. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
This book left me with two overwheliming emotions. One, a deep admiration for Ruth L Ozeki who comes across from these pages as sensitive, intelligent and comitted to her ideal (and from the liner photo appears to be something of a fox too), and secondly, a sneaking suspicion that I didn't want to be a carnivore any more.
Ruth made me reconsider a lifetime's habit that I knew to be questionable from a health point of view by resolutely refusing to preach to me about the moral aspects of eating meat. She appealed to my good, old-fashioned self interest.
But to concentrate on this aspect of the book is to ignore it for what it is... a heartwarming story that juxtaposes the differences between american and Japanese cultures in an easy to comprehend, easy to read, and easy to enjoy way. It has a sprinkling of romance, a little rebellion, and a lot of information about meat production and factory farming techniques.
It changed my life... and while I doubt that I'll ever become a vegitarian, I haven't eaten beef since I read it, nor pork. Or lamb...
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