My Year of Meats

Ruth L. Ozeki

this novel pulls together excerpts from Shonagon’s The Pillow Book and some research on the use of hormones in the production of meat (as well as medicine) as a backdrop to the story of jane, a documentarian who takes a job producing a japanese TV show about american wives and their favorite meat dishes. jane is biracial (japanese and american) and describes herself as constantly shifting between two halves, “neither here nor there,” and with this job sees herself as a go-between, between her desire to make good work and her need to keep her job.

fighting against the major beef company sponsor’s requirement that only white, middle class families be portrayed, jane starts seeking to slip diversity into the show. inadvertently she stumbles upon information about the meat industry, which upsets the balance of making shows that will keep her in good graces with her bosses and making shows that tell people what they should know.

there are several stories going on at once, and the point-of-view is constantly shifting between two central characters and a host of supporting characters. the narrative is clear, and the alternating viewpoints imbue a sense of community into the story, as well as a feeling that there is some hope.