Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Asian American Literature
October 4, 2022
Review by Jen
I’ve always been a bit of a news junkie and as part of that, have paid attention to politics. I actually used to work in news until I got so burned out by the bad news. I was in DC on 9/11, that did me in. It’s tough these days. Constant chaos, angry voices, and spending a few minutes on social media is the equivalent of doom scrolling for me. If you’ve watched, listened to or read anything about current events in the last few years, you can picture this story happening. In real life. Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng was an easy choice for me to listen to because the themes are SO INCREDIBLY RELEVANT.
Of course, Ng knows this and that’s why she wrote the book. I listened to the audio version which was delivered expertly by actress, Lucy Liu. Such an important story deserved a strong voice and she was terrific.
The premise is this…
Not many years ago, the US plummeted into an awful recession. Worse than a recession. Rock bottom. Government leaders in their desire to pull the country out of its misery landed on China being the reason for the decline. China out produced the US, grew their economy and domination on the international stage. Companies produced far more in China than in the US. This time was called “The Crisis”. And, as a result, a series of laws were passed under the guise of supporting American interests and patriotism. The good- it kind of worked. The country got healthier. The bad- people who were Asian, or looked Asian faced enormous amounts of discrimination. The ugly- children were taken from their parents if their parents were thought to be violating the new laws.
Ng tells the story through a young boy, Bird. Bird’s mom is Asian and his dad is Caucasian. At one time they were happily married, living a dream life. Then, a social movement started and hits very close to home. I don’t want to give it all away! To keep Bird safe, they agree that she must leave the family.
There are events in this fictional story that feel very real and familiar. Protests. Violence. Deaths. Pundits arguing. Scared citizens. People not knowing who to trust. Book bans. Book burnings. You get it.
I enjoyed Our Missing Hearts and want everyone to read it. And for them to think it about afterward. It’s a great book club selection and deserves to be discussed.
The only criticism I have is that the character development wasn’t as strong as I wanted it to be. I think that’s because the story itself was the focus, telling what could be if we’re not careful. And the characters to a small degree were the casualty of that decision.
I highly recommend the audio book!