My Year of Meats Summary & Study Guide

Ruth Ozeki
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My Year of Meats Summary & Study Guide Description

My Year of Meats Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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My Year of Meats is the first novel by award-winning writer, Ruth L. Ozeki. In this novel, Jane Takagi-Little takes a job as a producer on a Japanese reality show designed to encourage Japanese housewives to cook more beef. Jane is responsible for finding American housewives who are wholesome and attractive who will open her home to the cameras and make a meal whose centerpiece is some kind of beef dish. As Jane becomes more involved in the show, she begins to learn things about the beef industry that cause her to doubt her commitment to the show. At the same time, Akiko Ueno, the wife of the advertising executive who oversees the show's production, watches and learns that there is more to life than subservient obedience to a husband that she never loved. My Year of Meats is not only a closer look into the controversial practices of the beef industry but also a story of self-discovery in the lives of two very different women.

Jane Takagi-Little is living the life of a starving artist when she is offered a job producing a Japanese reality show to promote American beef. Jane is grateful for the job and quickly jumps into it despite a disastrous beginning with the first housewife that she features on the show. At the same time, Akiko Ueno, the wife of a Japanese advertising executive who is in charge of the production of My American Wife!, is given the chore of watching the show, cooking the dishes featured, and rating its overall wholesomeness and authenticity.

Jane constantly butts heads with the Japanese producers as she attempts to include a variety of American housewives on the show and not just the attractive white women they would prefer. Jane also wants to direct the show but again the Japanese want a Japanese director who will understand the standards by which the Japanese live. However, on the rare occasions when Jane gets her way, Akiko gives the show higher ratings in comparison to the shows that her husband finds more appropriate.

During one day of filming, the director from Japan has a bad reaction to the meat he is eating at the home of a featured housewife. Jane learns that this reaction is caused by the man's severe allergy to antibiotics. Jane learns from the doctor that all beef has some residual antibiotic in it from the antibiotics given to the cows at the feedlots to keep them from getting sick. All Jane cares about at this point, however, is the fact that the director's illness allows her to step in in his place.

Jane begins searching out more unusual housewives, such as a woman in Louisiana who has adopted ten Korean children with her chef husband. Unfortunately, the ad executive, John Ueno, does not like this episode because Jane allows the husband to cook the meal. However, Ueno's wife finds this episode to be more wholesome than some of the others. Another controversial episode Jane films is one that centers around vegetarian lesbians. This episode causes a great deal of stress for John Ueno but his wife finds it inspiring, making her see how unhappy she is in her life.

At the same time Jane is working on the show, pushing her bosses to their limits, she begins an affair with a musician. Jane believes she cannot get pregnant because of infertility experienced during her marriage a few years previously. However, Jane is shocked to learn she has in fact gotten pregnant. This pregnancy is unwanted initially but Jane quickly realizes she wants the baby.

Across the ocean, Akiko has struggled with her own infertility issues. However, she has recently begun menstruating again and knows that a pregnancy is possible. Akiko thinks about the episode of My American Wife! with the lesbians and realizes she cannot find happiness with her husband. As Akiko reaches this conclusion, her husband's occasional abuse toward her reaches a fevered pitch. John Ueno rapes his wife and leaves her badly injured, an injury that leads to hospitalization a few days later.

Jane knows she needs her job but she also wants to expose the truth she has learned about DES to the public. Jane arranges to film a show with a family that owns a feedlot. Jane films the manager of the feedlot feeding the cows and his employees injecting new arrivals. During this visit, Jane comes into contact with some hormones and begins to fear for the health of her unborn child. The following day, Jane and her crew go to the slaughterhouse to film the process. Jane is injured when she accidentally falls against the knockout pen. When Jane wakes in the hospital, she learns that she has lost her baby.

Akiko leaves her husband and goes to America. Once there, Akiko befriends Jane and visits some of the families who made the biggest impact on her through My American Wife! At the same time, Jane makes a documentary out of her footage of the feedlot in the aftermath of the accident that caused her to lose her job. This documentary sells to hundreds of media outlets in the aftermath of the revelation that the feedlot in question was using DES. At the same time, Jane reconnects with her lover and looks forward to a happier future.

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