MY YEAR OF MEATS by Ruth L. Ozeki


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A much-hyped debut from documentary filmmaker Ozeki proves well worth the fuss, as a tale both heartwarming and horrific of two women—one American, one Japanese—curiously allied in a struggle against the determination of the meat industry to make the world safe for hormone-laced American beef. For Jane Tagaki-Little, it’s pay vs. principle; her production job in a TV series for Japanese housewives, My American Wife!, sponsored by US beef exporters, takes her across America, in time giving her the director’s role she covets. But with each segment her knowledge of doctored meat is more at odds with the corporate mandate. Meanwhile, in a Tokyo suburb, Akiko Ueno, wife of the adman in charge of the series, vomits routinely after dutifully preparing for her brutish husband the recipes given on the shows, starving herself and ensuring that she will never have the baby he demands. Only when Jane’s episodes begin to appear, full of remarkable human touches and with nary a beef recipe in sight, does Akiko begin to hope—and to menstruate—again. She faxes Jane on the sly, seeking a way out of her abusive marriage, and learns that Jane plans to use newfound knowledge of feedlot practices to strip big beef to its chemical-laced core. Her husband, already furious with his director for a segment on vegetarian lesbians, discovers what’s afoot and goes ballistic, venting his wrath on Akiko by hospitalizing her before leaving for the States to stop Jane. In turn, a now-pregnant Akiko leaves him herself to go see Jane, who, following revelations at the feedlot exceeding her worst nightmares, has had a miscarriage and lost her job—and stands to lose the love of a man she barely knows but badly wants.. Character gems and exquisite plotting make this a treasure to read, but the real sizzle is in the take on beef: grilled between Oprah and Ozeki, every burger now deserves a long, hard look. (Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection; Quality Paperback Book Club selection; author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-670-87904-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998


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