Introductions: Celeste Ng
October 19, 2022
By Rebecca Hoogs, Executive Director
It is now my immense pleasure to introduce Celeste Ng. Every year we ask you, our SAL audience, who you would like to see on the SAL stage, and every year Celeste Ng’s name in the top ten most requested authors. It is thus a special delight to make your dreams come true, and mine, as we host her for her Seattle appearance to celebrate the publication of her new novel, Our Missing Hearts.
Ng began her ascendency of the SAL Wishlist with her first Everything I Never Told You, Ng’s debut novel, was a breakout bestseller, named Amazon’s book of the year, and a New York Times notable book of the year. Ng’s popularly grew with her follow-up, Little Fires Everywhere, which was made into the 2020 Hulu series of the same name. And Our Missing Hearts is on track to make just as much of a splash. It has already been named Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Pick—the first time Reese has picked a second book by an author.
Where Everything I Never Told you was set in the 1970s, and Little Fires Everywhere in the 90s, Our Missing Hearts takes us into a future which feels terribly close to now—a dystopic America that is already here in many ways. In the end notes for the book, Ng notes the many real life influences for the novel: the removal of children for political control, anti-Asian discrimination and hate, and protests and guerrilla art. Steven King, in his review of the book for the New York Times, wrote that “Celeste Ng’s dystopian America is milder [than other dystopias], which makes it more believable—and hence, more upsetting.” Our Missing Hearts is also about the power of words, and the sometimes unintended power of words.
At the end of the novel, the main character wonders, quote, “Is anyone listening out there? Are people simply rushing by?… It is hard for anything to be heard and even if anyone hears it, how much of a difference could it really make, what change could it possibly bring, just these words, just this thing that happened once to one person that the listener does not and will never know. It is just a story. It is only words.”
Our Missing Hearts is, like all of Ng’s books, a story about family, about fractures, about the tense relationships between artists and society, about class and race, but this is also a book with a bigger lens, a book that takes in America’s past and possible future and asks us to pause, to look, to listen.
It is an honor to be here tonight to do just that. To listen to Celeste Ng’s story of this new book, and to applaud her life in finding the stories and the words that make a difference in our lives.
Rebecca Hoogs gave this introduction to open our 2022/23 SAL Presents event with Celeste Ng on October 17, 2022. Tickets to view the recorded event are still available through Monday, October 24, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. (PT).