Talking Volumes: Celeste Ng on 'Our Missing Hearts'

Celeste Ng’s “Little Fires Everywhere” was a best-selling novel, even before it became a hit series for Hulu. Her new novel, “Our Missing Hearts,” is also receiving critical acclaim. It delves into the power of intellectual freedom in an authoritarian world and the strong bonds of family in a society steeped in fear.

12-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his father, who used to be a linguist but now works at a library. Their lives have gone mostly underground, after Bird’s mother, Margaret Miu, a Chinese American poet, left the family in the wake of laws written to preserve “American culture.”

To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic.

But when Bird decides to go on a quest to find his mother, he finds himself remembering the folktales she poured into his head as a child. He ends up traveling through a secret network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.

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This week, on Big Books and Bold Ideas, you’ll hear Ng on stage at the Fitzgerald Theater with host Kerri Miller for the second Talking Volumes event of 2022. They were joined by musical guest, Meghan Kreidler.


To listen to a lightly edited version of the Talking Volumes conversation, use the audio player above. You can also watch the full event via the embedded video, or look for it on YouTube.

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