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The Farm by Joanne Ramos

2019, Random House

Julia gave me this novel about a fictional surrogate birthing clinic where women give birth to provide children for wealthy clients. It may sound like science fiction but doesn't have that feel. The characters are real people with real problems, and the writing zips along making for a very enjoyable read.

Julia and I both liked the book and highly recommend it. We had different answers to the question: What was the main point of the book?

Julia: The main point was to talk about commercial surrogacy and its neo-capitalistic implications. Surrogacy was legalized in New York State in April 2020. (Then) Governor Cuomo snuck it into the budget law during Covid. It's also legal in some other states. Another point was to ask, what is motherhood?

Kellie: For me the main point was social inequality. Most of the surrogate mothers were poor immigrants and the book showed what their lives were like. The author Joanne Ramos was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States at age four. The book's main character, Jane, is Filipina.

Julia: Surrogacy is a complicated subject, and opinions are varied. On the "for" side, surrogacy helps infertile couples and also gay couples have children. But some say it leads to the commodification of women's bodies and the exploitation of poor women, who may not be aware of their rights. In her book, Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self, Kajsa Ekis Ekman speaks against the practice.

Read an article on the pros and cons of commercial surrogacy here.

More about The Farm

A more detailed description of The Farm and an interview with the author here.



Joanne Ramos talks about The Farm, at a small bookshop in Toronto. Includes discussion about the author's motivation, writing a first book at age 41, racism, fighting for the book's ending and more. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3


Journalist and Filipina immigrant Dina Nayeri thinks The Farm's the ending should have spoken up more against the status quo and says so here.

And last but not least, some quotes that caught my eye:

The Importance of Noticing

"Words are only one way to express things, Sweetie," Mom said. She told Reagan about photographers who helped people see the world anew: Ansel Adams with his landscapes, Walker Evans and his photos of the rural poor. If you don't notice, you can't care, and you won't do anything that matters..." 88

It says a lot about you that you do notice. That you care. A lot of people don't see what's around them--the waitress who brings them lunch or the doorman who carries their bags. 176

Charity and Money

Mae: Charity mostly makes the charitable feel good about themselves. Or at least, less guilty...Maybe pursuing your own goals is the best thing you can do. For anyone.

Reagan: I know what you're getting at but I just don't buy it. The invisible hand doesn't always work...and anyway, this isn't abstract to me. It's about Jane.

Mae stifles a sigh. She wishes Reagan were more motivated by the money, so that her interest and those of the Clients were completely aligned. 177-178

Ate's Business Sense:

Ate is the aunt of the main character. She's always looking for new ways to make money and when she gets a request from one of her housecleaning clients for a cleaner who doesn't use products with toxins she gets the clever idea of "organic house cleaning" For this, she could charge a premium, like the grocery stores do for organic bananas. 159

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