Novelist & Filmmaker
April 1, 2004|
4:15 p.m. Informal Seminar
Assembly Hall, Campus Center
8:00 p.m. Reading
Recital Hall, PAC
Both UAlbany, Uptown Campus
My Year of Meats (1998), Ruth Ozekiís humorous first novel, received a highly unusual award for a work of fiction: the Special Jury Prize of the World Cookbook Awards in Versailles, France.
The novel tells the story of Jane Takagi-Little, who, like Ozeki herself, is the biracial daughter of a Japanese mother and a white American father. Jane is commissioned by an American beef-lobbying group to produce a television series in Japan that promotes beef consumption. Each show in the series features a new beef recipe for Japanese audiences.
A searing satire of both the American beef industry and the Japanese media, and a hilarious depiction of cultures in collision, My Year of Meats received the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, an award that recognizes outstanding books that encourage greater mutual understanding among the peoples of the Pacific Rim.
"Wonderfully wildÖ. Funny, charming, and yes, politicalÖ a feast that leaves you hungry for whatever Ozeki cooks up next." - Newsweek
Ozekiís newest book is All Over Creation (2003) a novel about potato farming, genetic engineering and eco-terrorism. Yumi Fuller, an aging hippie and the unwed mother of three small children, is the daughter of an Idaho potato farmer and his Japanese war-bride. She returns to her home town of Liberty Falls to find herself embroiled in an epic battle between corporate farmers and Greenpeace-style environmentalists over genetically modified potatoes.
"Buzzes and blooms with the cross-pollination of races and subcultures, death and birth, betrayal and reconciliation, comedy and tragedy." The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A true green thumb, [Ozeki] has cultivated what could rightly be called a modern epic." - The Boston Globe
The book made the bestseller lists of The San Francisco Chronicle, Denver Post, and Rocky Mountain News, and was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.
Born and raised in New Haven, CT, Ozeki left for Japan shortly after graduating from Smith College. She did graduate work in classical Japanese literature at Nara Womenís University and taught at Kyoto University, before moving to New York where she worked as an art director on low budget horror movies, including Robot Holocaust (1987), and Mutant Hunt (1987). In 1994, she co-wrote and directed her first serious film, Body of Correspondence, a drama that received the New Visions Award at the San Francisco Film Festival.
In 1995, Ozeki made her prizewinning autobiographical documentary, Halving the Bones. The film uses a single incident in Ozekiís life as a means of introducing us to her familyís history. After attending her grandmotherís funeral in a Tokyo suburb, the filmmaker/protagonist is asked (as a "nice gesture") to bring half of her grandmotherís bones back to Connecticut to her estranged mother who missed the funeral. Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, the film has been hailed as a marvelous exploration of Japanese-American identity.
Prior to Ozekiís visit, Halving the Bones (United States, 1995, 70 minutes, color and b/w, 16 mm) will be screened as part of the Writers Instituteís Classic Film Series on Friday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Page Hall on the University at Albanyís downtown campus.
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