Can We Actually Make a Difference?

Celeste Ng shares how current events shaped her process as she dealt with her own uncertainties about the future

Oct 1, 2022

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In mid-2016, after I finished drafting Little Fires Everywhere, I started what I thought was a fairly traditional novel about a mother and her adolescent son. But as I wrote, the world began to shake along long-ignored fault lines, and the last few years have felt particularly cataclysmic. The story shifted as I wrestled with questions raised by the reckonings taking place—or being avoided. Can we actually make a difference? How can we teach our children to make the world better when we ourselves have failed to do so?

What emerged is Our Missing Hearts. It’s the story of Bird, a boy in search of his beloved mother, and of Margaret, struggling to make the world better for Bird despite the costs to herself. And it’s also an exploration of themes that matter deeply to me: the challenges of finding one’s place within and between cultures, the fragmented legacies passed from parents to children, and the power (and limitations) of art to create change. Above all, it’s a story about people pushing back on the wrong we see in the world, and keeping a sense of shared humanity alive in dark, cynical, and isolating times.

I hope it resonates with you, and I’m very grateful for your read.

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