Maria's Pick: "Our Missing Hearts" by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng’s newest novel, Our Missing Hearts is set in a dystopian future where the US government, in an attempt to recover from a period of economic crisis and chaos has passed the Preserving American Culture and Tradition Act (PACT). This law attempts to remove all forms of dissent by removing children from parents who are considered unpatriotic and placing them in state approved foster homes. Un-American books have also been removed from schools and libraries. Blaming China for the crisis, a blind eye is turned when anti-Asian sentiment results in extreme violence.
Twelve year old Noah ‘Bird’ Gardner lives with his father, Ethan, previously a professor, now working at the university library. His mother, Margaret, a poet of Chinese descent, left without a trace after her poetry becomes connected with anti-government activists.
As Bird searches for answers about why his mother left and where she is, his father is reticent to talk about her, fearing that Bird may be removed for any kind of suspicion of his being an un-American influence. After receiving a coded message from his mother, Bird sets out on his own to find her.
Heartbreaking and thought provoking, Ng’s story echos a history of government overreach including ICE separating families at the border and indigenous children being removed to attend boarding schools meant to assimilate them into American culture.