“Our Missing Hearts”: Critique of old problems being revived

Our Missing Hearts: Critique of old problems being revived

Jack Horton, Staff Writer

On Oct 4, Celeste Ng released her latest book “Our Missing Hearts” critiquing the U.S.’s Patriot Act, Japanese internment, and relocation of children from Native American families for ‘reeducation.’ This is done through the use of an alternate universe where the US passed a law known as the Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act, also known in shorthand as P.A.C.T. P.A.C.T. was passed due to fears of declining US power and the rise of powerful Asian countries. This novel also holds modern relevance as increasing tensions have seen anti-Asian and Russian sentiment with the U.S. which results in xenophobia. 

The novel explores deep topics such as the relocation of children from their families who are deemed as being unfit to raise their kids due to a lack of ‘patriotism.’ These topics serve as an analogy for various relocations throughout history due to certain groups being seen as ‘un-American.’ This novel also explores how freedom of speech often gets censored in the name of national security while showing that despite censorship social media has still made some ‘antipatriotic’ speech public. The government in this novel responds to this by blocking certain search results to quell growing discontent with P.A.C.T. Another element illustrated is how without proper funding as well as protection, often libraries and social media outlets are forced to abandon content which causes outrage. This acts as an unofficial censorship of speech. 

Overall, the novel is extremely powerful in its message as the reader gets to see all of this from the perspective of a child growing up under the rule of P.A.C.T. as well as that child’s family being torn apart by elements outside of their control. One may find this novel depressing in its historical and modern relevance as many of the problems illustrated still exist within the U.S. and could strike again. However, an important element delivered by this novel is the capacity for empathy, love, and hope to survive despite adversity. These traits push individuals to awaken and see issues within P.A.C.T. and to try to find ways to both fight it and remain connected with each other.

I would highly recommend this novel to my readers. I found that the book hooks you quickly into the plot and lore of the world. The chapters tend to feel short for me because the book introduces not too many or too little ideas into its narrative. I would say if you are not into it by chapter three then maybe right now the book is not really your style, in which case I would recommend putting it on a future reading list and trying to read it later. I think that the novel does provide a useful critique for a lot of modern and past U.S. issues though its critique is not unique. This, however, does not mean the novel is any less worth reading. Sometimes we must hear and emotionally connect to things several times in order to truly understand them.