Tag Archives: My Year of Meats

Red Meat: The Bond of the Typical American Family

Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats follows unemployed documentarian Jane Takagi-Little on her experience working as a producer for a Japanese TV show called My American Wife, which is sponsored by a Texas-based meat industry lobby organization called Beef-Ex. To continue the pattern of westernization in Japan, My American Wife features American wives demonstrating the steps to simple American recipes that contain red meat and can be performed at home for a family dinner. At the typical American family dinner table, red meat represents the main dish that unites each family member to bond with each other by sharing the dish. In order to establish a bond for the Japanese family during dinnertime, Jane Takagi-Little emphasizes the modern American tradition of serving red meat at the dinner table.

As the main purpose of the TV Show, red meat, instead of the American housewife, is the star of My American Wife. Sponsored by Beef-Ex, My American Wife wants Japanese housewives to “feel the hearty sense of warmth, of comfort, of hearth and home – the traditional family values symbolized by red meat in rural America” (Ozeki 8). Normally, the typical Japanese family indulges in light-tasting dishes, such as seafood, rice, soup, and vegetables. Although these dishes are light in flavor, the Japanese consider this cuisine as a commonplace in their culture. However, red meat, an “attractive, appealing, all-American dish,” gives the Japanese a sense of both westernization and modernization with the appeal of the American culture. As Japan becomes more of a Western-cultured civilization with the increase of American fast food places and red meat at the markets, it is reasonable for home-cooked meals to include the use of red meat as a main dish.

In order for the audience to gain interest in American red meat cuisine, Ruth Ozeki’s word choice to describe the purpose of the show creates a warm and persuasive tone. For example, the passage emphasizes how red meat brings the “hearty” sense of “warmth,” “comfort,” “hearth,” and “home.” (Ozeki 8) Instead of having the normal Japanese dinner, the Japanese should try something that would provides tons of flavor while producing the pleasant feeling of comfort while consuming the dish made of red meat. Ozeki wants to appeal to the Japanese housewives so their family members can intensify the feeling of comfort at home while enjoying their meal as a family. By intensifying this comfortable feeling, this allows family members to endure in bonding with sharing the amiability of their main dish of hearty red meat.

By emphasizing the value of bonding as a family as well as the use of red meat at the dinner table, the American tradition of the culinary concoction of red meat allows the Japanese housewife and her family to experience the ways at the dinner table of the modern American family.  As a rising country in the westernization of cuisine, utilizing red meat in home-cooked meals allows the typical Japanese family to meet the modern expectations of the modern westernized Japanese culture.


Meat as a tool to legitimize a story

My Year Of Meats follows the path of a documentary storytelling by following the exploits of two main protagonists in this story (Takagi & Akiko). Following the lives of these two main protagonists gives the feel of an investigative documentary as they unnecessarily uncover the things that are occurring behind the scenes with the American meat industry. At the same time by following the personal lives of these women we are either dealing or are witness to an assortment of different cultural, economic, and social problems that both the United States and Japan face. the medium that we see this throught is the production effort of different people involved in the filming of My American Wife.

First we are witnesses to the personal life of housewife Akiko and her husband ‘John.’ Slowly by following along the health problems that Akiko has we are able to uncover one of the consequences that American meat(beef) can have on the reproductive health of a woman. We see the resurgence of her periods and normal body weight when she starts to eat the Australian raised lamb instead of the American meat. (Ozeki, 143). The same can be said about Akiko and her difficulties with both her prior attempts at becoming pregnant, and her pregnancy to her musician lover, Sloan.(Ozeki, 173).  The use of antibiotics also makes an appearance with the people that are involved in the making of an episode of  My American Wife as one of the camera crew members suffers an allergic reaction to the American raised meat being used in the shoot.

From these complications we are presented with the reality of what are the consequence of using both antibiotics and hormones in the raising of feedlot cattle become apparent.

The lesbian couple being filmed, Dyann and Lara, go in depth why they have chosen to become vegetarians as they go on to explain the evils that feedlot cattle can cause both to the animals and the people that consume them.(Ozeki, 174-176). By not directly addressing the actual wrongs with the meat through the first half of the book, what Ozeki is doing is giving a back story to the actual problem. That is to say her main argument is being covered by these series of smaller stories and characters that are not connected directly.

We as the reader are taken through this voyage as we are presented with a different set of characters who are connected by My American Wife and each gives a little bit of the overall picture of how wrong is the meat in the United States. Technically this would be a critique on the meat industry. At the same time the book deals with issues of class, sexual and physical abuse, racism and stereotypes that afflict the Asian-American community. If this story were a film, it would be a combination of an investigative documentary that is a critique on the meat industry while at the same time it would take a look at several of the issues that were listed prior in this piece.  Meat is the food that becomes the medium through we are able to explore these issues in My Year of Meats. The reason for this it glues all of the stories together as BEEF-EX is the one bankrolling My American Wife. Without them there is no story. They give the story a plot that one can believe to be possible. Thus legitimizing the rest of the other stories.

Japan: A Nation of Lost Identity (My Year of Meats Extra Credit)

In order to survive in this planet of ever-growing changes, shifts and changes are often made, leading to the discarding of past values and tradition. In Ruth Ozeki’s novel, My Year of Meats, Ozeki indicates a shift in Japan as a country, as a result of influences in capitalism, consumerism, and overall American Culture. Ozeki makes it increasingly evident that Japan is losing its identity amongst nations as Japan seeks to conform with societies which have been deemed successful and prosperous. Japan is shown to seek adaptations of cultural lifestyles with a change to a diet richer in meats and shift towards desires of the “American Dream.”


Modernization of Japan into a Meat Culture

Clear resentment is presented towards past Japan through Akiko’s husband, John, who displays a growing loss of interest in his wife due to her small figure and infertility, which he views to be due to a meat-deficient diet. The remedy in such situation is concluded to be a change to a more American lifestyle, one that incorporates large consumption of meat. In such way, Ozeki utilizes meat as a linkage to American consumerism and culture, displaying shifting tides in Japan, as Japan becomes further accustomed to meat consumption through the cooking show, My American Wife, that Jane (the Protagonist) helps to produce. Ozeki essentially hints to the failure of infrastructure in Japan as a whole, as Japanese culture has caused its people to pale in comparison to American people.


Large Portions of Meat (Symbolizing American Culture & Consumerism)

The Protagonist Jane can be seen as the bridge between Japan and the America, as she is of Japanese and Caucasian decent. In presenting this duality, Ozeki is able to further the idea of American health and stature through both the successes of Jane with her TV show and Jane’s figure itself. John who comes into contact with Jane, in one passage, commends Jane on her height and intelligence, which he attributes to her Caucasian side. This sort of American favoritism that Ozeki incorporates into her novel, creates a sense of a dying Japanese culture that people seek to abandon for something of greater nourishment and prosperity. In My Year of Meats, this nourishment comes in the form of the meat that is cooked on the show and the meat that is sold to the Japanese people through BEEF-EX. The early Meiji Era values of 19th century Japan, values that include buddhist ideals of being frugal, low meat consumption, and overall moderation, are discarded and replaced with American values of excessiveness and high consumerism (in particular with that of meat). This new 20th century Japan, illustrates Japanese high regard toward a state of modernity, which is thought to be only possible through the mimicry of “American culture.”


Cover of My Year of Meats Novel (displays Japanese Chopsticks which pick up Beef Cow)

My Year of Meats is a novel in which Japanese progression towards modernity in the 19th and 20th century is displayed through Japanese adaptations toward the American lifestyle. Ozeki displays such shift through the symbol of meat which becomes an increasingly common part of the Japanese peoples’ lives. American consumerism is placed at the utmost highest pedestal, as it emanates and produces prosperity and health which is shown through the juxtaposition of American and Japanese women.

The Journey of Jane and Akiko in My Year of Meats

My Year of Meats is a novel that is about a Japanese-American woman, Jane Takagi-Little, who is a documentary filmmaker. She gets a job offer at two in the morning to produce a Japanese cooking show called My American Wife, sponsored by BEEF-EX, a national lobby organization that represents all kind of meats. In the documentary show, My American Wife, Jane makes a pitch to document that meat is the protagonist of the show and film housewives who can cook with meat. To proceed with the show, Jane and the production crew go on a journey to find the perfect and good-looking American housewives that have recipes, containing meat. Through her journey in the novel, Jane learns a lot about meat. She also finds about her true self, instead of doing what others want her to do.

As Jane travels for the documentary show, she encounters a housewife, Suzie Flowers. In the prologue of My Year of Meats, Jane translates for Mr. Oda, the director of the documentary show, to Suzie on how to act. During the filming, Jane films Suzie making Coca Cola Roast for her family and her everyday lifestyle as a housewife. However, during one of the filming, her husband, Fred Flowers, confesses to Suzie that he is having an affair, shocking everybody on the set. Despite the shocking news, Mr. Oda tells Jane that they will edit and end it with the scene where Fred and Suzie were celebrating on Valentine’s Day. When Jane hears about making the ending as if Suzie and Fred were living happily ever after, she feels that there is no truth within the documentary, which the documentary show ends up lying to the audience. Mr. Oda’s idea of editing to make a happy ending illustrates the idea of participatory documentary filmmaking, which shows the use of editing to create a story that is not true.

Meanwhile, Akiko Ueno is a Japanese housewife that cooks with meat.  She watches My American Wife, and follows the same recipes on the show, like Suzie’s Coca Cola Roast. Her husband, Joichi Ueno, works as the Tokyo PR representative for BEEF-EX. Because of her husband, Akiko is forced to watch the show and fill out questionnaires, in regards to the format of the show and how the meat is presented well. When Akiko and Joichi finish dinner, Akiko throws up in the bathroom, without Joichi knowing. As Akiko watches Jane’s documentary show, My American Wife, she not only learns about meat recipes but there is also a slow shift to her life.

            During Jane’s travel, she is truly inspired by Sei Shonagen’s “The Pillow Book,” as she refers to the book and how Shonagen influences her. She also learns more about meat and where it originated. However, throughout her entire journey, Jane mentions about her standing in being Japanese American and being able to embrace her identity, despite all the racial discriminations she receives from other people. My Year of Meats shifts around between the two women, Akiko and Jane, and how throughout their journey in watching and filming, My American Wife, it changes their perspectives towards life. 

Listful Women

“My Year of Meats” by Ruth Ozeki follows three women—Jane, Akiko, and Suzie— through the production of My American Wife, a television documentary series. The show is sponsored by BEEF-EX and is designed to interest Japanese housewives in cooking with beef products. Jane is the strong-headed Japanese-American coordinator of the show, Akiko is the Japanese bulimic wife of the head producer, and Suzie is the American star of one of the episodes. Ozeki uses lists throughout the text to link the stories of these women and show the differences in their lifestyles.

2 kilograms American beef (rump roast)
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 package Lipton’s Powdered Onion Soup
1.5 liters Coca-Cola (not Pepsi, please!) (19)

This is Suzie Flowers’ list of ingredients for the Rump Roast she is to make on her episode of My American Wife. The measurements are big and simple, 1 can of this and 1 package of that. The ingredients are also big and simple. “Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup” is one ingredient that can actually be broken down much farther into a compilation of ingredients. However if Campbell’s does not make the soup then Suzie’s recipe is no longer simple. This list demonstrates Suzie’s limited interpretation of things. Suzie says that before she discovered her husband’s affair she was “asleep”(26). She took things at face value and did not attempt to find the deeper meaning or interpret them farther.

This list also becomes Akiko’s grocery list for Saturday night dinner as instructed by her husband. Inspired by Shonagon, the author of a book full of lists and notes, Akiko writes a list entitled Squalid Things: “Darkness in a place that does not give the impression of being very clean / A rather unattractive women who looks after a large brood of children” (41). This is in reference to Suzie Flowers, the Coca-Cola Lady. Akiko, used to her complicated and small life, is disgusted by and slightly envious of the gluttony and simplicity inherent in American lifestyles. Both women are making the same dinner to appease their husbands and feed their families, but Akiko views it as squalid whereas Suzie has never questioned her lifestyle.

While at a strip club with Akiko’s husband Jane composes a list of things that categorize him:

Things That Give a Hot Feeling
Things That Give a Pathetic Impression
Things Without Merit
Things That are Unpleasant to See (46)

Both Jane and Akiko subscribe to Shonagon and find solace in writing lists about things they observe and experience. Jane is unabashed in her list describing Akiko’s husband using strong unrelenting words and speaking her mind freely. Akiko’s list however has qualifiers such as “rather” (41) and “impression” (41) that demonstrate her lack of confidence. If either Akiko or Suzie had the confidence that Jane has perhaps they would be able to repair their marriages or at least progress out of their respective stagnant states. The lists associated with each woman in this narrative not only provides insight into their personalities but links them together despite their obvious differences.

Meat is the Message, is the Message you heard, it’s got Additives, it’s got Meaning

“Meat is the message.” A simple line, a play on Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message,” yet it embodies exactly what Ruth Ozeki’s message in My Year of Meats. Within this novel, meat is used as a metaphor in the context of a diary that represents the lives of the various characters introduced. As the meat is molded and tampered so is the life of the main character, Akiko, whose diary section, along with Jane’s, gives us a deeper understanding of Akiko’s character and her marriage.

The novel splits itself into two parts, one being a behind the scene showing of what’s going on and the other being the diary of Akiko. From the background it is seen that the meat that is put on the shows use glycerin in order to make it glisten (42), likewise the meat used for the Coca-Cola roast has actually been doused by Pepsi, which is, “Not the real thing at all…” (30) On the actual show the food looks amazing, but even Akiko has a sense of distrust as she notes that, “…it felt like they were hiding something.” (40) This ties into Akiko throwing up the beef that she eats every night, almost in mutiny of the change in lifestyle that her husband “John” has pushed onto her. (37-38) Jane’s diary also gives us a glimpse of “John” and his relation to Akiko. Jane make’s a list, in the style of Shonagan, of “John” in response to his behaviors noting that he is, “Hateful/Unsuitable/Depressing/Annoying/Presumptuous”. (44)

The story, although having sequences that could are “behind the scene,” is driven by the pseudo-diaries of Jane and Akiko. Taking these three parts into consideration, they make the layers of perception for the story. There is Akiko’s point of view, the view of the audience who witnesses the show about meat.  Then there is the “behind the scene” point of view that depicts what happens to the meat in preparation for the show. Finally there is Jane’s perspective that goes deeper behind the scenes and shows the character of “John” tying all three perspectives together. “John” is seen as hateful and unsuitable along with a myriad of other negative labels in Jane’s diary, symbolizing how “John” by trying to modernize himself has ultimately been perverted. Akiko’s diary shows us the effects of this culture clashing, and essentially her innate struggle to fight off such forces as seen by her throwing up. This creates a contrast between the two characters despite the fact that they are joined by marriage. In a sense the marriage between the two reflects the condition of the meat. On a surface level the marriage between Akiko and “John” works and looks good, but underneath all of the additives lays something unnatural, a something that Akiko innately tries to push out of her life. The diaries thus help to create a cohesive view between the characters and the background view of the show.

The Influential Pillow Book

Written during the Heian Japanese era, Sei Shonagan’s “Pillow Book” is a diary that reveals the inner machinations of Shonagan’s mind. In Ruth Ozeki’s book, My Year of Meats, Shonagan’s “Pillow Book,” induces ideas of intimacy with the reader and mirrors the language and diction of the “diary form”. This emphasis on the “diary form” of the Pillow Book helps Jane, Akiko, and Suzie develop their identities throughout the story.

            Jane, a racially “half” TV documentarian, is often caught between the Caucasian and Japanese halves of her life. She translates in Japanese when filming My American Wife but must speak and write in English for the American film crew. As she describes her days and surroundings she uses the pronoun “I” thus revealing she is speaking in first person. This automatically evokes the feeling of the “diary form” that Shonagon used. Jane writes, “I imagine Shonagon, the master thief, hiding her nook of history, watching me slip in and out of darkened rooms and steal from people’s lives” (Ozeki 33). The diction Jane uses connotes that she is sharing the inner thoughts of her mind—as if she is writing in a personal diary. Jane writes that she, too, like Shonagon is a “master thief.” This reveals that Jane thinks the life of a documentarian is similar to that of a thief because she is“[stealing] from people’s lives”. Thus, Jane’s connection with Shonagon’s Pillow Book and her mimicry of diary form help Jane create her own identity and self image.

            Similar to Jane, Akiko battles with identity concerns. Akiko is trying hard to please her husband by attempting to conceive a child; however it is physically impossible. The diary form of Shonagon’s pillow book influences how the reader sees her as well as how she sees herself. For Akiko, the sureness with which Shonagon writes is astounding, “Akiko could not imagine what such certainty would feel like. She never felt at all sure of anything, even of her likes and dislikes” (39). The diary form of Shonagon goes to dictate Akiko’s thought processes and, in turn, causes her to question herself. Akiko compares herself to Shonagon thus revealing her own insecurity with herself.

            Lastly, Shonagon’s diary form also influences Suzie’s understanding of herself as a character and helps reveal her identity to the reader. Even though she is spoken of in third person, the diction used to describe Suzie is reminiscent of diary form because the reader knows most of Suzie’s thoughts: “She should have known then. She should have just put her foot down, put a stop to the whole thing” (26). This very intimate thought reveals Suzie was trying to be something she isn’t—A “perfect American-wife.” The repetition of “She should have…” reveals that she is berating herself for even agreeing to film. Therefore, the diary form enables one to see that Suzie is upset with herself for trying to be something she isn’t.

            The diary form from the Heian era directly influences all three of the women. Sei Shonagon’s intimate relationship with her pillow book mirrors how each woman’s story is told, thus allowing the reader to understand the dynamic characterization of Jane, Akiko, and Suzie. 

Diaries: Bringing the Past into the Present

Illustration of Sei Shonagon, author of The Pillow Book

            As Japanese author Sei Shōnagon once remarked in her renowned Pillow Book, “I put things down as they came to me” (Ozeki 1). In My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki utilizes Sei Shōnagon’s historic Pillow Book diaries to create a compelling narrative, unraveling a story about the dynamics of cultural realities. Focusing mainly on two contrasting protagonists, Jane and Akiko, My Year of Meats explores and uncovers cultural similarities and differences between Japanese and American culture. Ozeki’s use of The Pillow Book diaries, full of spontaneous jottings, unites the two narratives into one cohesive unit by inspiring the choices and actions of both respective protagonists while simultaneously revealing contrasts between historic realities and perspectives with those of a more modern era.

            The novel begins with Jane Takagi-Little, a Japanese-American documentarian directly inspired by Sei Shōnagon’s raw and uncensored perspective on life. At the start of the novel, Jane is hired by a Japanese company as the creative producer of a new television show, “My American Wife,” aimed at portraying the daily activities of stereotypical all-American housewives. Because the show broadcasts an illusory portrayal of happy American households to a Japanese audience, Jane detests the artificiality of the program. While the show focuses on upholding appearances, Jane imagines Shōnagon, “the master thief…watching [her] slipping in and out of darkened rooms and steal from people’s lives” (Ozeki 32). Like Sei Shōnagon, who defies social norms as “the sort of person who approves of what others abhor and detests the things they like” (Ozeki 1), Jane is an advocate of documenting life as is. As a documentarian, Jane prefers to reveal the undersides of situations and events, raw and unedited.

On the other side of the globe, Akiko, the wife of “My American Wife’s” producer, is a Japanese housewife who essentially serves as a foil to Jane’s anti-mainstream, artistic nature. Although she was once a manga artist, she became a housewife after marriage, dominated by her demanding husband. Unlike Jane, Akiko is rather meek, never “at all sure of anything, even of her likes and dislikes” (Ozeki 39). But like Jane, Akiko finds inspiration in Shōnagon’s Pillow Book. Akiko believes that “Shōnagon was so sure of herself and her prescriptions” (Ozeki 38) that she found comfort in reading her multitude of spontaneous, insightful lists. Although Akiko often attempts and fails to create her own lists, Shōnagon’s certainty ultimately serves to empower Akiko, giving her a sense of independence and authority.

Completed in 1002, the observations and thoughts displayed in Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book serves to inspire the lives of both Jane and Akiko, nearly ten centuries after the diary was completed. As a diary portraying the thoughts of a Heian court lady as they flowed from her mind to the pages of the notebook stored under her pillow, Shōnagon’s certain and realistic thoughts empower and unite the two main protagonists and their narratives. Through the use of observational diaries, Ruth Ozeki brings together two highly contrasting personas to create one cohesive narrative that ultimately reflects the cultural and inspirational connection between the past and the present.

A Modern Sei Shonagon?

            Ruth Ozeki incorporates the older genre of diary literature in her book, My Year of Meats, in order to give the reader a more personal insight into the life and personality of Jane Takagi-Little, one of the characters in the book. Diary literature is an older genre used by Heian court lady and writer Sei Shonagon in her well-known work, The Pillow Book. Ozeki opens up each chapter with a short passage from Shonagon’s book and relates it to the rest of chapter, and Shonagon is also a source of inspiration for the character Jane.

            Ozeki uses the first-person narrative of diary literature when she is telling Jane’s story, which allows the reader to connect with Jane and directly read her mind and feelings as she tells her account of her year as a coordinator for “My American Wife”. Jane also goes into her background. She tells us she is biracial, half Japanese and half white, and throughout the narrative the audience sees how she struggles with this but also has come to accept it, and even embraces it. Her struggles mostly come about how other people treat her, for example when an American WWII veteran asks her, “What are you?” she replies, “I…am…a…fucking…AMERICAN!” and it is obvious that she is offended by this question, even though as a biracial person, she probably gets this question often (7). The audience also sees how she is proud of being half and sometimes feels “brand-new—like a prototype” as the world will all be eventually all racially mixed (9).

            Jane tells the reader that she admires Sei Shonagon, who inspired her “to become a documentarian, to speak men’s Japanese, to be different” (9). Just as Shonagon wrote in the “Chinese writings” only used by men back in the Heian era, Jane speaks in men’s Japanese, and dares to be different in Japan, a society which has more emphasis on conformity and tradition compared to American society.

            The third chapter of My Year of Meats opens with a passage from The Pillow Book, “A thief has crept into a house and is now hiding in some well-chosen nook where he can secretly observe what is going on” (17). Jane relates to this thief as she “slip[s] in and out of darkened rooms and steal[s] from people’s lives” but also calls Shonagon the “master thief” (18). In diary literature, the author is not only limited to her own life, but also any lives she comes in contact with, whether the other party wants to or not. Jane can be seen as a modern parallel to Shonagon, who observed and wrote about the happenings in the Heian court as she viewed them without sugarcoating her language, just as Jane accounts her Year of Meats with direct feelings along with her experiences with her Japanese bosses and American families she worked with, withholding no indiscretion.

            Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book is an inspiration for My Year of Meats, both to the style and also to the character in the book.

The False Modernity in My Year of Meats

The emergence of western culture throughout the world has had longstanding effects on non-western communities. More specifically, the impacts of the vast spreading western culture has been reflected in Japanese culture since the early 1950s. From Yasujiro Ozu films to the development of fast-paced cities, westernized modernity has had implicit effects on Japan’s native culture with negative and positive impacts being difficult to distinguish. These effects, however, are clearly portrayed as good or bad in Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats. In her novel, Ozeki utilizes a nonlinear storyline to depict the attitudes of three intertwining women characters who are all products of the relationship between Japanese and American culture. These characters are comprised of an American woman, a Japanese woman, and a Japanese American woman. Ozeki deploys meat as a commonality between these women and displays the hardships that accompany a culture when it is involuntarily imposed on one’s life. Even more so, Ozeki reveals an added layer of pressure that modernization has on women.

The beginning of the novel introduces Jane Takagi-Little, a Japanese American gender non-conformist woman that works on My American Wife, a show aired in Japan. Its purpose is to represent American families in a positive light that will encourage Japanese families to eat meat. While the show’s layout is meant to portray the honest, everyday routine of an American wife, Jane becomes uncomfortable when she knows the producers ultimately prioritize what will sell over truth. Jane is a clear indicator of the issues that are entailed with involuntarily modernizing a person or culture. Her thoughts and actions reflect guilt and remorse, which derive from her feeling responsible for exploiting American women in addition to knowing that the show spreads a fictionalized image of American families to an eager Japanese audience. Akiko Ueno, a Japanese woman whose husband forces her to watch My American Wife, sees Suzie Flowers, a woman on the show. By seeing how “perfect” the characters on My American Wife seem to be, Akiko’s husband (who goes by “John” because of its western nature) yearns for he and Akiko to become increasingly like them. If only he knew that Suzie Flowers’ smile covered a life filled with a condescending husband that cheated on her, he might have reconsidered pressuring Akiko to conform to the ideology and symbolism of an American wife. By creating a fake depiction of all-American families who love meat, modernity is unnaturally imposed on the Japanese culture.

Ozeki’s novel successfully unveils the adversities that modernity has on a traditional culture. She juxtaposes the lives of the dominant culture with the lives of the inferior culture. With this juxtaposition comes the realization that women in both cultures fill a subordinate role in their homes to their husbands. Ozeki exhibits the hardships that Akiko faces for not fulfilling her husband’s desire for her to adapt as an “American wife.” Suzie Flowers severely lacks content for her life and marriage, yet the artificial portrayal of her on My American Wife conceals that. With backgrounds in both heritages, Jane Takagi-Little symbolizes the issues of modernity and the awkward position it has placed women into. The false illustration of American families instills an untrue message of how Japanese families should behave. This manipulates the process of modernization and ultimately reveals the dysfunctional aspects of both cultures.

Close Reading Paper #1, By Jack Harrison