Read the announcement here!
“Equal parts feminist dystopia and immigrant story, Ramos’s debut novel couldn’t be more relevant or timely.”
–O: The Oprah Magazine
“This topical, provocative debut anatomizes class, race and the American dream.”
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 >
“…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
“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)
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/
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
“…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)
Literary SalonPark House Club Thursday, January 9th6:00 PM100 Highland Park VillageLevel 3Dallas, Texas
Joanne Ramos in ConversationLiterati Book ClubMore details coming soon!
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.
The Penguin Random House Book Club Kit PDF is now available as an interactive EPub edition. Click here to download the free edition.
Don’t have an E-Reader? Click on the embed below and you can view the pages full-screen on your device.