Best-selling author of “Little Fires Everywhere” Celeste Ng releases her latest dystopian novel on October 4th.
“Our Missing Hearts” follows 12-year-old Bird Gardner who lives under laws “preserving American culture” due to years of violence and an unstable economy. Bird grows up without his mother who left the family a long time ago. However, after receiving a mysterious letter from her, Bird sets out to find what really happened to her.
Ng began the book in October 2016 after finishing “Little Fires Everywhere.” Following Former Pres. Trump’s election and the increased bigotry, Ng described to The Guardian how she started to ask the questions of “How do we move through this? How do you raise the next generation in this world?”
Other inspirations such as the separation of immigrant families and increased literary censorship also became themes.
In the book, authorities are allowed to relocate children–particularly those of Asian origin–from those who break those laws. While writing, Ng told The Guardian of her reflections on the separations of families at the border, and then about her own son.
“It’s difficult to explain to your child that you could be taken away from your parents,” Ng told The Guardian. “All of this found its way into the book, because I was asking myself, how do I explain to him why terrible things happen? How do I try to give him any amount of hope?
Another reflection of reality in the book is that in order to keep the peace, authorities have forced libraries to remove books viewed as unpatriotic or un-American. Bird’s own mother was a Chinese American poet who had her books removed from shelves.
According to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans from July 2021 to June 2022, about 1,600 individual books were affected by book bans. PEN America also stated that the bans occurred across 32 states, impacting a combined enrollment of nearly 4 million students.
Ng told The Guardian about the importance of not only including Asian American experiences into her work but ensuring there is a space for it because it’s often overlooked.
“As an Asian American, I often felt like when we were talking about race relations, and particularly about Black and White, I don’t know where I fit into that question,” Ng said. “And the more space we can make for saying, well, this isn’t the same, but there are resonances… the same with Latinx history, and Indigenous peoples.”
As stated on Ng’s website under the book’s summary: “It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact.”
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