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.
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