ENG 340: Multicultural American
Literature My Year of Meats
Instead of study questions to prepare for our reading of
Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats, we will use the Penguin Readers Guide
appended to the novel. Before you do the first reading assignment in the novel
itself, please read "An Introduction to My Year of Meats" (pages 2-5 of
the Penguin Readers Guide) and the 10 discussion questions (14-16 of the
The final examination in class essay topics for this novel are derived from
these discussion questions, so please review them carefully. The discussion
questions emphasize thematic concerns (the nature of truth; the role of the
media in culture, for example), cultural, ethnic, and gender issues, and the
politics of the novel. These questions can help you to narrow your focus to
points of interest through which you can develop an analytical thesis.
Early in your reading of the assignments, keep a list of
the central characters and their relation to each other, stressing how they are
described at their first appearance, and try to establish a focus for your essay
that will allow you to take more directed notes as you continue reading. To
perform well on the final examination essay assignment, you will have to collect significant
details that can be used to sustain your arguments.
Choose one of the following topics for your in-classfinal examination
essay on My Year of Meats; whichever topic you choose, be sure to avoid
Penguin Readers Guide suggestions that urge you to discuss your favorite
character or that encourage you to write about your own experiences. Instead,
focus on analysis of the novel:
Questions 2, 6, and 9 of the Penguin Readers Guide all address
portrayals of women in the novel. Discuss how any two women characters
in the novel challenge and/or support gender stereotypes. What statement is
Ozeki making about available roles for women in our culture? About pressures
experienced by women to balance job and family, or to sacrifice one for the
other? What roles do commerce and the media play in promoting stereotypes about
women or in perpetuating the status quo?
- Questions 5, 7, & 9 ask us to consider the male characters and
representations of masculinity in the novel. Discuss how any two male
characters in the novel challenge or support gender stereotypes of men. Do they
cause you to question your preconceptions regarding masculinity, or do they
simply confirm your views? Is there any variation among the male characters?
That is, are any of these characters more self-aware than others regarding their
relationships (either personal or professional) with women? Do the media in
Ozeki's novel perpetuate or dismantle male stereotypes?
- Questions 5 and 8 both encourage us to consider how Ozeki
addresses culture, ethnicity, and cultural diversity. Implicitly, question 10
also evokes cultural diversity in a changing world by commenting on the
different meanings of "truth" and "authenticity" held by different characters.
What comment does Ozeki make about globalization, commerce, the media, and
cultural diversity? Ultimately, what values or positions does she promote? How
do these values or positions connect with issues that we have raised throughout
the course? Support your judgments with evidence from the novel.