My Year of Meats is a novel written by Ruth Ozeki and published in 1998. This is Ozeki’s first novel, and it tells of two women, separated by an ocean and by their respective cultures but connected by a Japanese TV cooking show being filmed in “All-American” households all across the United States.
Ruth Ozeki is not only an author but also a filmmaker and a Zen Buddhist priest. My Year of Meats, as her debut, was extremely well received, winning the 1998 Kiriyama Prize, and the 1998 Imus/Barnes & Noble American Book Award. Ozeki’s novels are unique in that they combine very intimate and personal stories with large scale social issues, such as science and regulations, environmental issues, race, and much more.
In My Year of Meats, the protagonist is named Jane Takagi-Little and works for a Japanese production company to promote American beef in Japan, working with BEEF-EX. The television show is named My American Wife! and is centered around an American woman who is married and lives a stereotypical American life. The wives have to provide recipes that involve meat, and the production team travels around the United States finding the next woman to film with. On the other hand, Akiko Ueno, the wife of BEEF-EX worker Joichi “John” Ueno, is unable to carry a child and is forced to watch the episodes of My American Wife! and recreate the dishes every week. John is convinced that this will make Akiko fertile again, which heavily strains their already broken relationship. As the book progresses, independence, loyalty, and new ideas form the complicated web which changes both Jane and Akiko’s lives.