Celeste Ng's 'Our Missing Hearts' Inspired by Anti-Asian Violence

Celeste Ng's novel "Our Missing Hearts" draws inspiration from a 2021 real-life incident in Manhattan where a Chinese woman was brutally attacked and nobody intervened. The novel portrays a dystopian America where people of Asian origin are treated with disdain and suspicion, mirroring the surge in anti-Asian violence and hate crimes.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Celeste Ng's 'Our Missing Hearts' Inspired by Anti-Asian Violence

Celeste Ng's 'Our Missing Hearts' Inspired by Anti-Asian Violence

Celeste Ng's 2022 novel 'Our Missing Hearts' draws inspiration from a disturbing real-life incident in Manhattan in 2021, where a Chinese woman was brutally attacked and nobody intervened. The assault mirrored the surge in anti-Asian violence and hate crimes that plagued the United States during the Trump presidency and Covid-19 pandemic.

Why this matters: The rise of anti-Asian violence and hate crimes is a pressing concern that requires immediate attention and action. If left unchecked, it can lead to further marginalization and erosion of social cohesion, ultimately undermining the fabric of our society.

Set in a dystopian America governed by the Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act (PACT), Ng's novel portrays a bleak world where people of Asian origin are treated with disdain and suspicion. The story follows 12-year-old Noah Bird Gardner's desperate search for his renegade poet mother in a society where books are censored, knowledge is restricted, and the children of dissidents are removed from their families and rehomed.

Ng, a 43-year-old American author, began writing 'Our Missing Hearts' before the pandemic-fueled rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. As the child of Chinese immigrants growing up in American suburbia, Ng drew from her own experiences and was further motivated to tackle the subject matter after witnessing the escalating violence and xenophobia.

Unlike Ng's previous novels, 'Everything I Never Told You' (2014) and 'Little Fires Everywhere' (2017), which were grounded in realistic domestic fiction, 'Our Missing Hearts' required a different approach to construct a convincing parallel world. Ng studied works like Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' and Leni Zumas' 'Red Clocks' to master the craft of building a compelling alternate reality that reflects contemporary issues.

Ng believes that fiction often serves as a warning, imagining potential futures and urging people to learn from history to change course. "I think that fiction often acts as sort of a warning call in some ways... you're imagining what could be, and it's almost like if people think about those things, learn from history, and change course, all those warnings seem like they were hysterical," Ng explained.

Family dynamics, especially the relationships between parents and children, are a recurring theme in Ng's work. Her experience as a mother has provided new insights into her own childhood and the challenges her mother may have faced. Ng's son, who is of mixed race, was five years old when she began writing 'Our Missing Hearts,' and reflecting on his experiences informed her development of the character Bird, who is also biracial.

Celeste Ng's 'Our Missing Hearts' is a powerful and timely novel that confronts the disturbing realities of anti-Asian violence and xenophobia in America. By imagining a dystopian future that mirrors our present, Ng challenges readers to confront uncomfortable truths and learn from the past to create a more just and compassionate society.

Key Takeaways

  • Celeste Ng's novel "Our Missing Hearts" draws inspiration from a 2021 real-life incident of anti-Asian violence in Manhattan.
  • The novel is set in a dystopian America where people of Asian origin are treated with disdain and suspicion.
  • Ng's work tackles the pressing concern of anti-Asian violence and hate crimes, urging readers to learn from history and change course.
  • The novel explores family dynamics, particularly parent-child relationships, and draws from Ng's own experiences as a mother.
  • The book serves as a warning, imagining a potential future and encouraging readers to confront uncomfortable truths and create a more just society.