My Year of Meats: Diary Narrative

J70: Paper 1

Natalie Jongjaroenlarp

The older genre that is consistently used in My Year of Meats, by Ruth Ozeki, is the diary narrative. The diary narrative provides a form of confession in which Ozeki can journal her memories and personal experiences in an attempt to reveal her ideas about women’s restrictions and how these notions have bled into her own life. She also includes certain pieces from other writers to help ground her argument in a more effective way. In order to allow the personal side of her narrative to shine through, Ozeki starts every chapter with a poem that foreshadows similar themes or ideas that will come up later in the chapter. This technique opens the chapter with an emotional draw, almost as if the reader is living these months of her life with her. For instance, in the second chapter of her book, Ozeki uses Shonagon’s poem to tell her story as follows: “When I make myself imagine what it is like to be one of those women who live at home, faithfully serving their husbands-women who have not a single exciting prospect in life yet who believe they are perfectly happy-I am filled with scorn” (Ozeki, 17). The poem refers to the idea that Shonagon wishes she could be happy or, at least, make herself believe that she is content and satisfied with the way her life turned out. In Shonagon’s mind, she thinks that the fabricated version of her life is better than having to deal with reality because it enables her to live the idealized life just enough to come to terms with her own circumstances. This parallels with what happens to Suzie, the woman who plays the American housewife on a cooking show that Ozeki works on. In order to confess the truth about the tv industry, Ozeki uses Suzie’s personal experience. In Suzie’s life on the tv show, she has a loving husband and children and cooks for them every episode. This contrasts with what happens when Suzie finds out that her husband has been having an affair. During her grieving period, Suzie finds solace in an old family quilt, crying in it to escape from the cruel world that she now finds herself in.

Also, Ozeki brings in her own personal experience to describe the cultural clashes and differences that she has faced as a Japanese-American. For example, she relates the story of her mother arguing with her father over the family name. Her father’s last name is Little and her mother’s maiden name includes the “Chinese character for “tall” and the character for “tree.” Ma thought the stature and eminence of her lofty ancestors would help equalize Dad’s Little… “It doesn’t mean anything,” Dad would say. “It’s just a name!” which would cause Ma to recoil in horror. “How you can say ‘justa name’? Name is very first thing. Name is face to all the world.” “Jane” represents their despair at ever reaching an interesting compromise” (Ozeki, 9). Ozeki’s use of dialogue emphasizes how open America’s multicultural society is to new ideas. This contrasts with Japan and its superstitions and traditions that have been embedded into the culture over centuries. My Year of Meats is about women learning about the world in her own unique way. Ozeki’s use of diary narrative, dialogue and poems makes for an artistically well-developed story that is centered around a tv show that is supposed to give Japanese viewers a sense of what America is really like.

Ozeki, Ruth L. My Year of Meats. New York: Viking, 1998. Print.

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