Fans of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, will either be familiar with (or certainly should know about) unnerving dystopian thriller, The Farm, by Joanne Ramos.
The Farm asks big questions about how much of ourselves we are prepared to trade in return for a comfortable life. The novel is centred around luxury fertility clinic, Golden Oaks, which houses a group of women in varying stages of pregnancy… but the babies growing inside them are destined for the rich and powerful and the women soon come to realise that their surrogacies come at a chilling cost. The Farmpowerfully imagines what could well happen if surrogacy was taken to its high-capitalist extreme.
To mark our July digital issue starring Yvonne Strahovski, Joanne Ramos writes exclusively for GLAMOUR about how her groundbreaking novel is an eerie reflection of modern society.
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.
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.
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.
Step 1: Commit to Writing
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.