The Vancouver Public Library has just announced their pick for the 2007 edition of One Book One Vancouver: My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. I read this book on a friend’s recommendation a few years ago, and I even campaigned for it as a selection for our own little book club (currently on hiatus).

My initial reaction to the news was “Isn’t it supposed be a book about Vancouver in some way?” But I’m swallowing my parochialism. Everyone should read this book. It’s a slim, funny, and occasionally unsettling novel that takes on big themes: Japan-America cross-cultural relations, violence against women, genetically modified foods, and industrial meat production.

There were parts where I physically squirmed. In particular, I ached for the character of Akiko, a woman abused by her husband. Her eating disorder has made her so thin, it pained me picture her frail body. But Akiko is contrasted by the robust, spunky Jane, a filmmaker who starts out making a show to promote American beef for Japanese television and winds up discovering the meat industry’s dirty little secrets.

My Year of Meats has been out for several years now, so there are probably a few used copies in stores around town. The library hold queues will probably get lengthy. So grab a copy while you can, else you find yourself darkening the door of Chapters. Yech.

There are a number of events planned in conjunction with OBOV, including a reading with Ruth Ozeki on May 7. Book clubs and individuals can also register to officially participate, and the OBOV website includes links to resources on the topics addressed by the book.

When I was in Japan, people who wanted to issue a softened command or recommendation liked to use the expression “you had better” do such and such. So I think you had better read this book.

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