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News article related to India gave Filipina author idea of debut novel


Press Trust of India New Delhi
At 40, Joanne Ramos was looking for her debut novel a compelling story that could hold her ideas and allow them to flourish until she read about a surrogacy facility in India and her book began to take root.
The Philippines-born Joanne Ramos has just come out with "The Farm", which is about race, class, family and power, as she is being heralded as the new age Margaret Atwood.
The book, published by Bloomsbury India, talks of an ambitious businesswoman named Mae Yu who runs Golden Oaks, a luxury retreat transforming the fertility industry, where women get the very best of everything, so long as they play by the rules.
Jane is a young immigrant in search of a better future. Stuck living in a cramped dorm with her baby daughter and her shrewd aunt Ate, she sees an unmissable chance to change her life but at what cost.
"The Farm" explores the role of luck and merit, class, ambition and sacrifice and is a story about how we live and who truly holds power.
When Ramos started writing "The Farm", the themes she wanted to tackle were already apparent to her - ideas that had consumed her for decades, rooted in her experiences, and the people she'd come to know, as a Filipina immigrant in Wisconsin, a financial-aid student at Princeton University, a woman in the male-dominated world of high finance, and a mother of three in the era of intensive "helicopter" parenting.
"The challenge was to find a compelling story that could hold all these different ideas and allow them to flourish. I wasn't interested in writing a screed but in telling a good story that made readers think," she says.
Then, about a year and a half into her daily routine of writing while her children were in school, she read a short article in the Wall Street Journal about a surrogacy facility in India.
"The what-ifs began pouring onto the page: What if I moved the surrogacy facility to America? What if I made it a luxury one that catered to the richest people in the world? What would people like that want? The book began to take root," Ramos told PTI.
She is flattered by comparisons with Atwood.
"My older sister gave me a copy of The Handmaid's Tale' when I was in high school in the late 1980s. I had never read anything like it, and it opened my eyes - not only to issues of female agency, the commodification of women's bodies and the patriarchy, but to how capacious and flexible and radical fiction can be. I'd never read writing like Atwood's. I was blown away by how she put together words as much as by the ideas suffusing her book."

According to the author, she didn't put much conscious thought into the title.
"From the outset, when I saved my day's writing onto my laptop, I labelled the file The Farm', differentiating each day only by its date. I suppose this is because, when I started imagining the world of Golden Oaks, I immediately envisioned a very wholesome, pastoral setting - rolling hills, pristine lakes, acres of lush farmland. Unwittingly, I'd already thought of Golden Oaks as a baby farm'," she says.
On the characters and situations, she says these were made-up in her head. "The book is a work of fiction, but through some sort of organic, maybe even alchemical process, certain pieces of yourself and your experiences end up - altered - in fiction, too."

The book has often been called "dystopian" by readers and some reviewers. But Ramos says she didn't set out to write a dystopian novel.
"I tried to create a world that was only a few inches ahead of ours. It was crucial to me that the world of Golden Oaks was plausible, because I didn't want to give my readers the out' of dismissing The Farm' as futuristic, or unrealistic, or too extreme to every really occur. I wanted the reader to recognise the world of The Farm', and in recognising it, maybe see our own reality through a new lens," she says.
As far as the luxury elements in the novel, it seemed to Ramos that a very rich client with limitless resources would want her surrogate to live in comfort, without any sources of stress, since studies have shown that stress is bad for babies in utero.
"I also think the comforts of Golden Oaks allow its clients to feel good about outsourcing their pregnancies. The marketing pitch for Golden Oaks - the narrative that Mae Yu tells herself and the clients in order to justify it - is that the farm is a win-win': good for both the clients and the surrogate mothers."

One of the notions Ramos explores in "The Farm" is the concept of free trade, which underlies the capitalist system.
"One of the basic tenets of free trade is that it - a trade voluntarily reached by two parties - is mutually beneficial'. If it were not, so the theory goes, one party to the trade wouldn't agree to the deal.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

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First Published: May 31 2019 | 1:05 PM IST

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