Review – My Year of Meats


Title : My Year of Meats
Author : Ruth Ozeki
Publisher : Text Publishing
Published : July 2013 (first published 1998)
Page : 366 pages
My Rating : 4/5


When a documentary marker Jane Takagi-Little lands a job on a Japanese television show sponsored by an American meat exporter, 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. And the battle with ‘big beef’ will be on in earnest.

Romance, humour, intrigue–even a message: Ruth Ozeki’s much loved novel has it all.

Thought on This Book :

Dear book, you’re confusing me, in a good term.
I’m not sure what are you. Are you a long essay, documentary, or just wonderfully good book. Yes, you’re confusing, but I can say that you’re certainly a good book.

It took really long for me to write down my review about this book. Mainly because my thoughts are too scattered to gather and put them down into sentences. I think a lot about this book. Yeah.

Jane Takagi-Little is a documentarian working in a program show for Japanese viewer called My American Wife!. The show’s format was to feature “perfect-American-family” and their family’s recipe for serving meat, as the sponsor of the program is a beef importer company named BEEF-EX.

“Meat is the message!” They say. But Jane doesn’t seem convinced by that. After the director of the show got fired, Jane took the director position of the show. From there, she started to do show which supposedly more “documentary” and stray from the show main message. Thus, made the show’s sponsor supervisor, “John” Ueno mad and trying to stop her.

Over 5000 miles from America, in the Japan’s Capital of Tokyo, we meet Akiko Ueno. Akiko is the wife of “John” Ueno and she is assigned by John to rate the My American Wife, as well to learn from the show. Akiko is a dry woman, with no ability to get pregnant. Her husband thought that it has something to do with her appetite, and he believes that it could be solved with eating meat.

Both Jane and Akiko shared same inspiration from Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, which I found also interesting (I think I should read it anytime soon. It has pretty sentences). Both of them never meet each other, but Akiko adores Jane’s documentaries and found them life-changing to her.

I don’t know how to describe this book, because I’m completely lost. It’s about meat and life and love and family relationship and sex life and motherhood and social perspective and everything in between, mixed into one bowl and served with sprinkles of (dark) humor.

It isn’t Mr. Frye’s use of the generic “man” for “human” that I’m interested in. Other women might object to his choice of words, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s an intraspecific quibble. The conflict that interests me isn’t man versus woman, it’s man versus life. Man’s REASON, his industries and commerce, versus the entire natural world. This, to me, is the dirty secret hidden between the fraying covers.

–page 154

Although the characters are pretty stereotypical, I think I didn’t really mind it all. It’s true though, that some Asian culture’s somehow demand a wife to be obedient towards the husband. But the important thing is how the characters portray their role in the story. Jane is the main narrator, so her voice is dominant in this book. Other than Jane we will be tossed between many wives, although not in their point of view.

It is interesting how Ruth Ozeki wrote this book in the form of documentary. It provides us information and background story, how terrifying is meat industry, constructed from a very well-done and extensive research. The thing is, it’s not boring. I find myself enjoyed this book so much. It’s kicked off with a rather funny side, but like A Tale for The Time Being, the story gets darker within the following pages. The emotional twist is painful to read… and I cry, even.

“Meat is the message!” They say. Then again, this story is not only about meat. It’s about how one discovers things, and discovers oneself. Meat is really just a backdrop, making a thin red thread throughout the story. There’s so much more than just meat issue which might persuade us to become a vegetarian. (which is not for me because I keep eating meat anyway)

Read this book if you want to read something emotional with witty humor and bunch of essay information. It’ll feed your reading hungriness.

Cheers,

Ra

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