Martin's Must-Reads: 'Our Missing Hearts'
“The letter arrives on a Friday. Slit ad resealed with a sticker, of course, as all their letters are: Inspected for your safety-PACT...No return address, only a New York, NY postmark, six days old. On the outside, his name - Bird- and because of this he knows it is from his mother.”
Those are some of the opening lines of Celeste Ng’s novel Our Missing Hearts. Bird is a part Caucasian/part Chinese twelve-year-old boy who lives with his Caucasian father in a university dorm. They moved there after his Chinese mother disappeared. It’s taken the country ten years to come back after an economic depression that was blamed on China and eventually, anyone of Asian descent.
The government passed PACT: Preserving American Culture and Traditions. Authorities were given permission to root out any anti-American elements and to relocate children who they deem to be living in unsuitable homes.
A phrase from one of Bird’s mother’s poems, "Our Missing Hearts," becomes the rallying cry of a group of dissidents trying to change this horrible law and reunite children with their families. Librarians are secretly helping families keep track of their children. Bird’s mother spends three years in hiding while also collecting stories of the relocated children.
In her author’s notes, Ng says, “There is a long history, in the U.S. and elsewhere, of removing children as a means of political control...The pandemic that began in 2020 brought a sharp increase in anti-Asian discrimination.”
If you’re interested in reading a novel that presents one example of what could happen if we blame all people of a certain nationality for the policies of their country, then you must read Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng.