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.