Joanne Ramos’s debut novel The Farm, which explores women’s control over their bodies, has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale. She talks to Vogue about what inspired her tale of a surrogacy facility for the super-rich, and why, in the face of recent alarming changes to reproductive rights, she believes optimism is women’s “only choice”.
“I couldn’t have predicted it,” Joanne Ramos says of the timeliness of her debut novel, The Farm. It’s set in a not-all-that-implausible world in which the offspring of the one per cent are carried to term by “Hosts”, recruited to lease out their bodies for nine months in exchange for a stipend, plus the promise of a delivery bonus that could prove life-changing for a young, fertile woman with limited financial prospects.
The surrogates – most of whom are black or Filipino, with a minority of white women marketed as “premiere” Hosts – are housed in spa-like luxury at Golden Oaks, a farm in upstate New York with chef-prepared meals and massages on tap. But they are also kept under 24-hour surveillance, their emails are monitored, and visits from their own children are restricted as a means of “incentivisaton”.
Given that The Farm explores women’s agency over their bodies, it makes for particularly pertinent reading at a time when their reproductive rights are under threat – nowhere more conspicuously so than in America. Earlier this month, Georgia became the sixth state to outlaw abortion after the six week mark. Last week Alabama took things further still, voting on 14 May to ban abortion in virtually all cases, a decision that prompted an outcry from women (and men) all over the world.