You can now download a PDF guide to The Farm. It was produced by Penguin Random House and includes an interview, discussion questions, and even recipes from Joanne Ramos’s mother.
If you don’t have a PDF reader simply click on the embedded version below. You will be able to flip through on most devices without leaving your browser.
Almost all the women in THE FARM are mothers, and yet the mothers in the book cross lines of class and race. Please discuss the centrality of the theme of motherhood to THE FARM.
As you pointed out, almost every character in THE FARM is a mother, a surrogate mother, or someone desperate to become a mother. I was interested in exploring the lengths that mothers will go to give their children better lives. This holds true for the immigrant women in the book, who make huge sacrifices daily for their family—and often earn a living by taking care of other (wealthy) people’s kids. But this also holds true for the privileged women in the book. If you asked any of these mothers why they do what they do—why they chose to be clients of The Farm, why they left their sons and daughters back home in the Philippines—they’d answer that they did it for their kids. What compels them—a visceral love for their babies—is in its most basic sense the same, regardless of race, or class, or socio-economic status.
So, what makes the mothers in THE FARM so different from each other? Why do we disdain some and feel an affinity for others? Is it because of their race? Their class? Is it because of the power imbalance among them? Do we care that some mothers in the book can ensure that their kids have an edge starting in utero? Does it bother us that, regardless of how hard some of the mothers in the book work, their children’s lives will be defined more by the neighborhoods they were born in and the education-level of their parents than anything else?
Read the interview >
I returned to my alma mater, Princeton University, in April on a gorgeous spring day to tape the She Roars podcast with Margaret Koval. We had a great conversation about The Farm, motherhood, capitalism, and how we see–and fail to see–the people around us. You can hear it here:
I was thrilled to hear that The Farm was chosen for the BBC2/Jo Whiley Book Club in the UK! When I was in London the week of May 13th, I got to chat with Jo–and the lovely members of a book club out of Kent–about the The Farm. You can hear the program here:
Several years ago, when my daughter was seven, she startled me with a question: “Why do only daddies work?”
It was nighttime, and her voice in the dimness was pointed. I continued tucking her into bed, stalling for time as I formulated an answer.
“You know a lot of mommies who work,” I finally chided.
I began rattling off the names and occupations of the working moms at my daughter’s school — the ones she didn’t often see at pick-up because they were still in the office: lawyers, businesswomen, museum curators, professors. Soon, I was including women with interesting jobs whom my daughter barely knew — a neurologist at Weill Cornell, a mother who ran a large non-profit… This was my attempt, I now think, to inundate my daughter with options, to lift her in a tide of possibilities: Look at all these working mommies! They are legion! No door is barred for you!
I kissed my daughter that night nagged by dissatisfaction — with my answer, which even then I sensed was inadequate, and, also with myself.
Read the article >
Earlier this year, we named Joanne Ramos’ novel The Farm one of the season’s must-read new releases. In it, readers travel to a farm in the Hudson Valley called Golden Oaks. It is there that women who work as surrogates live in a plush but carefully controlled environment for the duration of their pregnancies. Ramos chatted with Bookish about her book’s complicated relationship with capitalism, motherhood, and the American dream.
When The Farm first landed at my doorstep, I was easily intrigued by what Joanne Ramos pieced together. From pregnancy rights to immigration, her novel – tinged with dystopian undertones – felt urgent as political nominees began to announce their candidacy for 2020.
Even though I expected to love it, the novel knocked me out. In her debut, which isn’t about politics, but about human rights on a larger scale, Ramos created a must read page-turner that offered readers an insight to what is happening now as well as what can happen in the future.
Nestled in Upstate New York, the titular farm, is where women in need of money can go to carry babies for the wealthy. The plot follows an immigrant from the Philippines in search for a more secure future.
Read interview >
Joanne Ramos and I first met in a Ditmas writing workshop led by Rachel Sherman six years ago. There, Ramos shared the initial chapters of a novel, and her enormous talent clobbered me. The chapters introduced a Big Brother surrogacy farm, her vibrant characters, explored power dynamics, and beautifully rendered stories of Filipina caregivers. There’s one scene set in a swank Manhattan apartment (I won’t spoil it) that still has me holding my breath. After class, we became friends, swapping pages and commiserations as she tunneled deeper into the textured unfolding and unsettling landscape of The Farm.
Ramos worked in investment banking and private equity for many years, eventually transitioning into a staff writer role with The Economist. The path to publication for The Farm, Ramos’s first novel, has been a whirlwind fairytale, the kind writers dream about.
In February, I caught up with Ramos at her favorite coffee shop in Tribeca to talk about writing The Farm, her writing process, and pre-publication jitters.
The Farm, a gripping novel centered on a secretive retreat where poor women incubate the perfect babies of über-wealthy clients in exchange for life-changing fees, evolved from author Joanne Ramos’s own experiences. Raised in a tight-knit Filipino community in Wisconsin, she was shocked by the wealth she encountered at Princeton. After graduation, she began a high-paying career in finance, which moved her to the other side of the wealth divide. When she left her job to raise her kids, she found she felt more kin- ship with the Filipina nannies and housekeepers she met on play- dates than with her former coworkers. The women talked of leaving families behind, sleeping a dozen to a room in illegal dorms and hoping that someday their work would pay off for their children back home. “It was heartbreaking,” Joanne tells GH. “They viewed me as the American dream, but I felt guilty about their pride in me. Some people will never be able to change their lives, no matter how hard they work.”
She created the story of Jane, a jobless Filipina immigrant who is at first thrilled to be chosen to “host” a pregnancy, though she must leave her own baby with her cousin until she delivers. But as Jane’s bright new world tightens chillingly around her, she begins to fear the choice she’s made. “I wanted this to feel like something that could happen now,” says Joanne. As she tells it, the possibility may be more real than we think.
Joanne Ramos’ debut novel, The Farm, has a provocative premise: A posh resort in New York’s Hudson Valley offers fine meals and handsome remuneration to women, most of them financially struggling immigrants, willing to live in seclusion from their families and carry a baby to term for wealthy clients. We spoke with Ramos about her work.
Dystopian fiction is a genre that other authors have used to shine a light on the treatment of women. The Handmaid’s Tale is perhaps the most famous example. Did you have previous books in mind that deal with similar topics as you wrote The Farm? And, in general, who are some of your literary influences?
It’s funny: The Farm has been called dystopian by many reviewers and readers, and yet, I didn’t set out to write dystopian fiction. I’m someone who grew up straddling worlds—as a Filipina immigrant to Wisconsin in the late 1970s, as a financial-aid kid at Princeton University, as a woman in the male-dominated world of high finance and as a mother with conflicted feelings about my generation’s zeal to give our children the “best” of everything. I’ve often felt like an outsider in my life—an uncomfortable place to inhabit, sometimes, but outsider-hood does give one a certain distance and perspective. It was this perspective that I wanted to write about in my book. My obsessions sprung from this perspective.
The world of The Farm is meant to be our world pushed forward just a few inches—far enough so that the reader can get a bit of distance from our current state, but not so far afield that she can dismiss it as “sci-fi” or highly improbable. Is that dystopian? I suppose it depends on your definition of dystopia.
“…Joanne Ramos’s deft way of creating characters. She peoples her book with figures who are appealingly engaging — or, at times, engagingly repellent.
Some novels are born with book club DNA, great narratives that can also spur energetic discussions. Debate will rage around the treatment of the young women at The Farm, but the novel’s complex mélange of personalities brings a somewhat improbable story stirringly to life.”
––Jean Zimmerman, NPR
“Born in the Philippines and Princeton-educated, Ramos worked in investment banking and private-equity investing before turning novelist, life experiences that no doubt gave her the insight to write so convincingly of both worlds. Ramos ably toggles between hardworking Philippine immigrants who can’t seem to get a foothold on American prosperity and the monied elite who take advantage of the widening class divide.
…what’s so striking about “The Farm” isn’t that it imagines a frightening dystopia. This isn’t a hundred years in the future, it’s next week. This is reality, nudged just a touch to its logical extreme.”
––Barbara VanDenburgh USA Today
“So many factors—gender, race, religion, class—may determine where you come down on the surrogacy debate…. Joanne Ramos plays with many of these notions in her novel, The Farm, which imagines what might happen were surrogacy taken to its high-capitalist extreme.”
–– Jen McDonald, The New York Times Book Review
“Exploring the sacrifices we make for those we love, this gripping read really will keep you hooked until the last page.”
–Shereen Low, Heat (UK) (In print only)
“In her debut novel, The Farm, Joanne Ramos sets up the intriguing premise of monetising surrogacy by connecting needy immigrants with high-net-worth individuals who desire a child but are unable to have…
In its timely brush with gender politics and the framework of multi-character perspectives, it has more in common with Naomi Alderman’s 2016 novel The Power”
–Melanie White, Literary Review
“This is a delicately paced and finely wrought tale of high-end surrogacy, that is also a biting critique of the world’s inequalities … Moving, ethically complex and gripping, The Farm is a great novel.”
–Herald (UK) (In print only)
“The Farm is crammed with acutely observed scenes that place reproduction within an intricate web of class, gender and race … social ambiguities are finely etched …
The Farm doesn’t present a full-bore dystopia so much as occupy an uncomfortable space between now and the near future: if such an ultra-elite surrogacy venture doesn’t exist already, it surely will soon. In fact, the villain in The Farm is arguably unfettered capitalism. Mae truly believes the Hosts are “treated extremely well, and they’re compensated more than adequately for their efforts”. Yet while the wombs of Jane and friends may not be subjugated by force, the chasm of socioeconomic inequality throws free choice into doubt: the dystopia is now.” –Benjamin Evans, The Observer
“Wealthy foetuses occupy the bodies of immigrant women in a thrilling debut about the new frontier of colonialism and the savagery of the American dream.
The Farm reads not so much as dystopia, but as a plausible next venture for a capitalist ruling class that has grudgingly opened its doors to women and must now contend with the problem of fertility and motherhood. It is also a novel about the limits of American meritocracy. It asks us to consider who gets to rise (from poverty, immigrant abjection), and who must serve that person’s narrative. Is an enterprise exploitative if all parties agree?
The most beautifully realised character is Evelyn, an elderly Filipino baby nurse and caterer whose complex motives give her the kind of impossible moral struggles that immigrants actually face … Evelyn’s storyline, and her voice, give this novel its power.
As a fellow immigrant and financially aided Princeton student, I find Ramos’s take on the silliness of the rich wildly enjoyable. She has the acute gaze of the immigrant girl made good. Her book is a necessary one – we need a mass-market novel that shows the impact of colonisation, with flawed white people failing to save the day.” – Dina Nayeri, The Guardian (UK)
“It’s got book-club hit and bestseller written all over it … It’s so now. In fact it’s the very nowness that makes The Farm such a haunting read …Ramos has crafted a real page-turner that combines all the hottest issues of the day: inequality, race and women’s battle to reclaim their bodies from commodification by big business, with the eternal questions of how much we can sacrifice before losing ourselves completely. She is eloquent on the little intimacies of gestating a baby and the upstairs-downstairs dramas between rich white ladies who feel guilty about everything and their nannies who must debase themselves without making their bosses feel sorry for them. The result is an entertaining novel that is also a serious warning.” –Melissa Katsoulis, The Times (UK)
I introduced The Farm to the world on May 8th at one of my favorite bookstores, The Strand, at a sold-out event packed by old and new friends. You can see my talk with the author and frequent host of The Moth, Tara Clancy, here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bQPjnOu4TM
Belletrist, the online book club started by Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss, chose The Farm as its May book! Emma announced the big news on Busy Philipp’s late-night talk show, Busy Tonight.
A real estate commitment phobe, Joanne Ramos was happy to rent in case the next thing came along. Then the perfect listing did.
FOR MANY YEARS, my husband dreamed of owning a house in the countryside for weekend getaways. He’s from North Carolina, and I grew up in Wisconsin—and while we both love living in New York City, we often long for the renewal of the outdoors. Over the decade and a half of our marriage, my husband and I have rented an assortment of temporary refuges in rural New York and Connecticut: houses next to lakes, cabins in the woods, modern constructions of cement and glass, and a plum-colored Victorian that smelled of cat litter and incense.
Every so often, over the years, my husband has approached me, trying to mask his excitement: “I found a house for sale in our budget and—”
Before he could continue, my jaws would clench, a visceral reaction to the thought of homeownership, which seemed so overwhelmingly… permanent. I liked renting: It was low-stakes and low-commitment.
I’ve always felt physically untethered. I was born in the Philippines, and my family moved to Wisconsin when I was 6. And while I spent the rest of my childhood there, in a small city on the coast of Lake Michigan, I always knew I would leave. My parents raised me, as many immigrant parents raise their children, to “make it” in the world—wherever that would take me. They encouraged me to apply to an Ivy League university out east, even though it meant they’d have to shovel deep into their savings and I’d take on debt. They cheered my moves to New York City and Boston and London for various jobs, even as my successes guaranteed I’d make a life far from them.
Joanne Ramos on outsourcing the labor of pregnancy and the female body as manufacturing belt.
Picture this: an existence punctuated by yoga classes and country walks, sustained on a quinoa-heavy diet, swaddled in Merino wool. That’s the schedule of the women making possible this promise: the compromise of career or family resolved, without compromise. This is Golden Oaks, known as the Farm, a surrogacy facility that allows the global elite to outsource the labor of pregnancy to surrogates.
The setting of Joanne Ramos’s debut novel, The Farm, sounds like a thought experiment, but it’s better understood as a projection of the current inequalities. In a world of ubiquitous Louis Vuitton, the most conspicuous form of wealth, the truest status symbol, is the ability to buy back time. In Ramos’s novel, gestational surrogacy, a situation where a woman carries a baby that isn’t biologically related to her for compensation, is the ultimate luxury good. For those employed as surrogates, it’s a windfall. It’s a shot at the longest shot: the American dream. It’s also a sinister reversal of the idea of invisible labor—the labor of housework and childrearing that mostly exists below the drag net of economic measurements. That work here is given its due, a dollar value. But surrogacy as work turns its women into more than a labor force—the women become units of capital. It’s the body as manufacturing belt.
Town and Country, “The Must Read Books of Spring 2019”
Vulture, New York Magazine, “Spring Books Preview, Fiction We Can’t Wait to Read”
The Farm was featured in the “highbrow”, “brilliant” section of NY Mag’s Approval Matrix: Week of May 13, 2019
Reproduced with permission from © NY Mag
*This article appears in the May 13, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
Oprah Magazine, “…the Buzziest Books Coming Out in 2019 (so far)”
Wall Street Journal, “The 10 Books You’ll Want to Read this Spring” (recommended by The Skimm)
Refinery 29, “11 Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Spring”
Book Riot, “50 Spectacular New Books You Need to Read This Spring”
PopSugar, “28 Buzzy Books to Read This Spring”
The Evening Standard, “The Best Books to Look Forward To in 2019”
The Guardian, “2019 in Books: What You’ll Be Reading This Year”
Ms Magazine, “2019 Reads for the Rest of Us”
Elle UK, “Ones to Watch: The New Writers We’re Excited to Read in 2019”
Cosmopolitan UK, “32 New Books…to Get Excited About in 2019”
Good Housekeeping, “The Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2019”
Marie Claire, “The Best Women’s Fiction of 2019 (So Far)”
Debut Novels Everyone Will Be Reading in 2019
BookBub, “The Most Anticipated Books of 2019”
Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview
Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2019
Huffington Post, “61 Books We’re Looking Forward to Reading in 2019”
Hello Giggles, “The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2019…”
Bustle, “5 Female-Centered Dystopian Novels to Read in 2019”
PureWow, “35 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2019”
Stylist, “The 10 Books You Need to Add to Your 2019 Reading List”
Deccan Chronicle (India), “2019 Books to Watch Out For”
New York Times Book Review, 14 Books to Watch Out For in May, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/books/new-books-may.html
Washington Post, 10 Books to Read in May: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-10-books-to-read-in-may/2019/04/29/47079d70-6922-11e9-a1b6-b29b90efa879_story.html?utm_term=.828bc69c51d5&noredirect=on
One of AMAZON’s Best Books of May, https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=17276797011
A PEOPLE MAGAZINE “Book of the Week”
USA Today, “Five Books Not to Miss”, https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2019/05/04/5-cant-miss-books-jill-biden-memoir-where-the-light-enters-the-bride-test-upheaval/1090688001/
Marie Claire, The Best Books of 2019 To Add To Your Reading List, https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/g26234148/best-books-2019/
Time.com, the 10 New Books You Should Read in May, http://time.com/5579966/best-books-may-2019/
Oprah Magazine, The Buzziest Book…This May, https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/books/a27322182/new-book-releases-may-2019/
Entertainment Weekly, 20 Books to Read in May: “grippingly realistic” :
New York Post, The Best Books of the Week: “A brilliant satire about privilege”, https://nypost.com/2019/05/04/the-best-books-of-the-week-29/
Cup of Jo, 6 Books We’re Reading This Spring: “a cracking, chilling, but also human page-turner” : https://cupofjo.com/2019/05/best-books-spring-2019/?fbclid=IwAR2aNOTNS6zFKyu8vLK5rMmUGr3DHFKAvred8bKXBtOjjF7DDZm_dz8n4jA
Cosmo.com, “The 14 Best Books Coming Out in May 2019”, “The Handmaid’s Tale vibes are strong, but the “holy sh*t this book is genius” vibes are stronger.” https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/g27308560/best-books-may-2019/?slide=6
Refinery29, The Books of 2019…: “a sharp takedown of the idea of American meritocracy”https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/05/231435/best-books-may-2019
LitHub, What to Read this Month: “a must-read” : https://lithub.com/the-astrology-book-club-what-to-read-this-month-based-on-your-sign-6/
Bustle’s New Books…to Add to Your Memorial Day Reading List: https://www.bustle.com/p/45-new-books-coming-out-in-may-2019-to-add-to-your-memorial-day-reading-list-17130948
BookRiot May 2019 Book Recommendations: https://bookriot.com/2019/05/01/may-2019-horoscopes-and-book-recommendations/
Dystopian fiction is a genre that other authors have used to shine a light on the treatment of women. The Handmaid’s Taleis perhaps the most famous example. Did you have previous books in mind that deal with similar topics as you wrote The Farm? And, in general, who are some of your literary influences?
Read the full article
“A chilling tale of the struggles and sacrifices of surrogate motherhood…The Farm explores gender, race, and class, and of who has access to power, freedom, and choice.” –Princeton Alumni Weekly
“Traveling from the glitz of Manhattan to multiethnic, immigrant Queens and the isolation of the rural Hudson Valley, this is an exciting read about the politics of motherhood and female autonomy. Highly recommended for readers of both popular and literary fiction.” —Library Journal
“The most powerful element of this debut novel by Ramos, who was born in Manila and moved to Wisconsin when she was 6, is its portrait of the world of Filipinas in New York. The three-page soliloquy of instructions for nannying delivered to Jane by her more experienced cousin is a work of art in itself. Excellent, both as a reproductive dystopian narrative and as a social novel about women and class.” —STARRED KIRKUS REVIEW
“Ramos’ debut is so engaging that the reader might not fully understand the depths she probes until the book is done. Throughout, questions of money, ethics, privilege, and ambition arise as each character makes compromises—or straight-up lies to herself. An alarmingly realistic look at the power of wealth and access buoyed by clear, compelling storytelling and appealing…characters.” —STARRED BOOKLIST REVIEW
The Farm is a work of fiction. But it is also, in many ways, true: inspired by people I have known and the stories they have shared with me.
I was born in the Philippines. When I was six, my parents, siblings, and I moved to southeastern Wisconsin. In many ways, America’s heartland was wholly different from the world we’d left. And yet, because my father’s family had preceded us in emigrating to Wisconsin, and because of the tight-knit Filipino community that had already taken root in the area, I grew up straddling two worlds: our old one, preserved in clamorous weekend gatherings filled with Filipino friends and family and too much food, and our new one, where my little sister and I were two of the four Asian kids in our elementary school.
After high school, I headed east to attend Princeton University. My world was blown open, and not just intellectually. Princeton was the first place I encountered truly great disparity—in wealth, in class, in experience and opportunity.
Years later—after stints in finance and then a career switch to journalism—I decided to take a break from the working world to spend more time with my young children. I realized one day that the only Filipinos I knew in Manhattan, where I lived with my family, were the ones who worked for my friends—baby nurses, nannies, housekeepers, cleaning ladies. My husband and I ended up hiring a wonderful Filipina nanny for a time, too.
Perhaps because I am from the Philippines and am chatty and curious about people by nature, I became friendly with many of the Filipina caregivers in my orbit, as well as others from South America and the Caribbean and elsewhere in Asia. I listened to their stories—about errant husbands and difficult bosses; about the dormitory in Queens where beds are rented by the half-day to save money and how the money saved was sent halfway around the world to support children or parents or nephews back home. I saw the daily sacrifices these women made in the hope of something better—for their children, if not for themselves—and the enormous obstacles standing in their way.
The gulf between their lives and possibilities, and mine, is vast. I often wonder if it is even bridgeable in our society today. And despite what I’ve been told countless times in my life—that I am the embodiment of the “American Dream”—I know this chasm has as much to do with luck and happenstance as it does with any kind of merit.
In many ways, The Farm is a culmination of a running dialogue I’ve had with myself for the past twenty-five years—about just deserts and luck, assimilation and otherness, class and family and sacrifice. I didn’t write it to come up with answers, because I don’t have them. Instead, the book is meant to explore—for myself, and hopefully for its readers, too—questions of who we are, what we cherish, and how we see those who are different from ourselves. I hope The Farm might serve as a window to the “other” side of these divides, from wherever readers approach it.
Joanne Ramos Instagram: @joanneramosthefarm
“This topical, provocative debut anatomizes class, race and the American dream.”
“…hits home hard—a thrilling read about the myth of meritocracy, the way some people get ahead in life before they’re even born.”
–New York Magazine
“Ramos has written a fire-cracker of a novel, at once caustic and tender, page-turning and thought-provoking.”
–Madeline Miller, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Circe
“Wow, Joanne Ramos has written the page-turner about immigrants chasing what’s left of the American dream. Truly unforgettable.”
–Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Super Sad True Love Story and Lake Success
“What at first feels off-kilter is slowly ramped up to truly chilling, and it’s done so subtly that we barely notice the change happening—it’s not afraid to ask searching questions about who wins and who loses when women’s bodies are commodified, and how freedom and agency for some come at a cost for others. It’s sharply prescient, and terrifying, too.”
—Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure
“A highly original and provocative story about the impossible choices in so many women’s lives. These characters will stay with me for a long time.”
—Karen Thompson Walker, New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Miracles and The Dreamers
“Examining white privilege, the ‘American Dream,’ power and sacrifice by the Filipino-American emerging author, this is one of the most hotly anticipated debuts this year—and for good reason.”
“Ramos creates a believable dystopian future where poor women try to make money and change their societal standing by offering up their bodies to house and deliver healthy babies for the rich. The novel alternates perspectives between four women and provides notes on fundamental inequalities.”
—Evening Standard (UK)
Writing a first novel is a leap of faith. Some people, I imagine, take the plunge headfirst. When I approached the precipice after a 20-year hiatus from writing fiction, I did so tentatively; when I finally leapt, I held my breath.
Since I was a child, I’d loved writing stories. But life took me in a different direction, and it wasn’t until I turned 40 that I dared to give writing a real go. I remember my first year of committed writing as one of flailing and experimentation, riddled by uncertainty and pursued in isolation. Ideas teemed in my head, but I couldn’t find a way to get them on the page in any satisfactory way.
Every weekday morning while my children were at school, I forced myself to write—short stories, flash-fiction pieces for online contests, countless “first chapters” that led to dead ends. Sitting for hours at the kitchen table on my own, I had no sense whether my work might capture a reader’s interest or bore her death, if it was flawed-but-promising or irredeemable.
Read more at Writer’s Digest
How much would you sacrifice to achieve the American Dream?
Interview and Review of The Farm and Q & A with Joanne Ramos
What could be better than living on sprawling beautiful property in the country, healthy food being served to you, fresh air and exercise, massages and pampering, and a generous, life changing paycheck, while all your needs are being met? The catch…you must stay on the premises and be separated from your family and friends for nine months while you are pregnant with a baby that doesn’t belong to you.
In this stunning debut novel, The Farm, female-centric and slightly dystopian (will be appealing to fans of The Handmaid’s Tale), author Joanne Ramos creates Golden Oaks, a secluded, country club atmosphere in Hudson Valley, NY where mostly foreign women are bearing children for elite clients who are not able to get pregnant or who choose not to.
Jane, a young, single Filipina mom with an infant, no husband and no secure place to live, decides to leave her own baby with her cousin, Ate, and take a job at Golden Oaks, where she will make enough money to better her life. She is chosen to be a Host, living in a luxury house in the middle of the countryside where her only job is to rest and keep the baby inside her healthy. Nine months is a long time to be separated from your family and as time goes on, Jane starts to question the value of that big paycheck versus her sacrifices associated with being away. She is worried about her young daughter and her cousin, and is unsure the money alone is an adequate tradeoff for the painful separation and the missing of milestones.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for a novel centered on a surrogacy farm and do you know anyone that ever worked at one?
A. When I finally dared to commit to writing a book, a childhood dream I’d deferred for decades, I was already forty. Certain ideas had obsessed me for much of my life but finding a way into them—finding the right story to contain them and, also, allow them room to breathe—was difficult. I spent well over a year writing short stories, flash-fiction pieces and “first chapters” of stillborn novels. It was an exercise in persistence and, also, faith. Then one day, when reading my husband’s Wall Street Journal, I happened upon a snippet of an article about a surrogacy facility in India. The what ifs began swirling in my mind almost immediately, and The Farm began to take shape.
Literary SalonPark House Club Thursday, January 9th6:00 PM100 Highland Park VillageLevel 3Dallas, Texas
Joanne Ramos in ConversationLiterati Book ClubMore details coming soon!
Joanne Ramos was born in the Philippines and moved to Wisconsin when she wassix. She graduated with a B.A. from Princeton University. After working ininvestment banking and private-equity investing, she became a staff writer at TheEconomist. She currently serves on the board of The Moth and lives in New YorkCity with her family. The Farm, her debut novel, is a national bestseller and hasbeen chosen by over 50 media outlets in America and abroad as a “must read” in2019. The Farm was longlisted for the Center of Fiction’s 2019 First Novel Prize.
Nestled in New York’s Hudson Valley is a luxury retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, personal fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you’re paid big money to stay here—more than you’ve ever dreamed of. The catch? For nine months, you cannot leave the grounds, your movements are monitored, and you are cut off from your former life while you dedicate yourself to the task of producing the perfect baby. For someone else.
Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines, is in desperate search of a better future when she commits to being a “Host” at Golden Oaks—or the Farm, as residents call it. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her family, Jane is determined to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she’ll receive on the delivery of her child.
Gripping, provocative, heartbreaking, The Farm pushes to the extremes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.
I was honored to receive an Agent of Change award in March 2019 from Girls Write Now, a fantastic organization that pairs underserved female students in New York City with mentors and helps them find their voices through the power of writing and community. 90% of the girls in the Girls Write Now program are people of color, 70% are immigrants or first generation, and 90% are high need.
In my keynote address, I spoke to these young women about how publishing The Farm has been a dream come true–but one long deferred due to the stories I told myself.
Joanne Ramos, author of THE FARM, at the Penguin Random House Open Book Event, December 2018.
The Penguin Random House Book Club Kit PDF is now available as an interactive EPub edition. Click here to download the free edition.
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