Jewish Currents Magazine


I spent a few hours this past weekend reading Your Hearts, Your Scars, a slim, potent collection of essays by the writer Adina Talve-Goodman (z”l) about the fullness and the complexities of a life lived with “two hearts in my possession: one inside, and one out.” The first is the donated heart she received at age 19; the second, the single-ventricle one she was born with, which led her to experience heart failure at age 12. “Is your suffering dear to you?” she asks herself three times in the opening essay, quoting a story from Talmud. There and elsewhere, Adina treads through questions of ableism, strength, and shame with lightness and humor. In another essay, she entertains a suitor’s suggestion that there might be something zombie-like about living in a body containing a dead stranger’s heart, admitting there were days when she “did walk about the world feeling a lot like death in drag”—but ultimately she finds the greater horror lies in being cherished for her scars.

The collection itself is unfinished—Adina died of a rare and swift cancer caused by post-transplant immunosuppressants in January of 2018, 11 years after she received the donor heart. It’s easy to lose sight of the specific gifts of this book within the many layers of her living legacy: In a postscript, Hannah Tinti, the One Story magazine editor who helped edit this collection, characterizes Adina as “a hero in colorful scarves and overalls” with “a weakness for glitter and Cher.” Adina was the managing editor of One Story, a performer and trained clown, and the daughter of two rabbis. (Her mother, Rabbi Susan Talve, is known for opening her St. Louis synagogue to BLM protesters in 2014 and 2017.) Even after the transplant, Adina held on to the heart she was born with—not, she tells a nosy doctor, because it’s “a Jewish thing to take your organs home with you,” but because she wanted to keep what was rightfully hers and maybe to find out what a “dying heart” contains. The heart was released to her “in an urn through a funeral parlor,” she recounts drily, “as my own ‘remains.’”

The essays here deal in a troubled economy of gratitude and gifts, where one person’s death becomes another person’s life. But they are populated with the seemingly lightweight details of young adulthood: makeout sessions in basements and in cars, awkward breakups, too-long conversations with strangers, encounters on late-night subway platforms. On a walk to an Iowa cemetery on the ten-year anniversary of her transplant, where she means to pray but realizes she cannot recall the words, Adina remembers that the second-century miracle worker Shimon bar Yochai is said to have lived with “one eye laughing and one eye crying.” These essays devote themselves to living in this space, refusing the ostensible weight of their subject with a bright, insistent humor.

Adina was a new friend the year we both lived in Iowa (her first and my last), warm and sharp and generous and funny. Reading these essays lent new valences to my memories of hiking with her in the woods near my house, of sharing cocktails one night at a dance party that turned out not to be dance-y enough, of burning intentions in her backyard under a new moon. I was moved by the way a voice really can stay alive in print, how encountering Adina in these pages made her briefly, vividly present. There’s a moment in one essay when she bristles at being called “pretty” by a nurse, and concludes that what the nurse must mean is that she looks “a lot like life.” It’s a phrase I want to use to describe this book, which is too brief, and incomplete, but full of life regardless.

I Must Have Been That Man

“I suspect there was some kind of fall,” she said,
even if it was just a little stumble.”

“I Must Have Been That Man” by James Tate

On a Monday night in October when I was twenty, I walked home with a boy from a party drinking cheap whiskey and sharing puffs of his cigarette. We stopped on the stairs outside of my apartment and kissed. I asked if he wanted to spend the night. This is healthy, I told myself, this is college.

In my room, we laughed and shushed each other, fumbling around with buttons and zippers until he took off my shirt.

“What’s this,” he said as he traced the scar down the middle of my chest, his fingers lingering on the keloids, the small, hardened lumps of scar tissue that punctuated the already prominent pink line.

“I had a heart transplant,” I said.


“A year ago.”


I waited for him to ask the usual questions: why did you need it, are you okay now, what about the donor.

“You have great boobs,” he said.

To read the rest of this essay, go here.

Excerpt from “Your Hearts, Your Scars.” Copyright © 2022 by Adina Talve-Goodman. Forthcoming Jan. 24, 2023, by Bellevue Literary Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

(Y)Our Hearts, (Y)Our Scars: How Adina Talve Goodman Changed My Life

by Arvin Ramgoolam

Published in ANMLY

At some point you have to rationalize all the rejection you face as a writer. If you can’t, then it’s time to take a hard look and measure it against the things that bring you joy and decide which of those things you want to be a vessel for. I was turning 40 and had very few successes in my writing life. I had twin girls to raise and a bookstore and cafe to run. My family had been full of men who made poor decisions in life that affected their children in bad ways, and pursuing writing began to feel like the wrong decision as I considered my own children’s future. Had the direction of my world pivoted toward New York City, or the possibility of returning to school to pursue an MFA, then I would have been justified in slogging on with writerly dreams in my head, but I had fallen in love with a girl and the town she was born and raised in. And in that town we started a bookstore. A boy, a girl, a bookshop. The stuff of Hallmark movies. With our twin girls, a life filled with snowy days, and books in the heart of the picturesque Rocky Mountains, I would have learned to live without a part of myself that had sustained me through difficult times.

Then I applied for the Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship. I read everything I could about Adina. I read her award-winning story, I Must Have Been That Man. I was immediately moved by her humanity, her self awareness, and her skill on the page. In that essay, I met someone I would never have a chance to speak to. Next, I read her memorial page. Adina died of cancer in 2018. I could see that she was an amazing talent robbed of a future but possessing an indomitable spirit that would survive to help underserved writers along their own journey.

To read the rest of this essay, go here.

The Condition of My Transplanted Heart Is One of Remembering

The heart came from somewhere in the Midwest by plane to St. Louis Children’s Hospital during game 5 of the 2006 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. My mother heard cheers as the surgeon stepped off the elevator with the cooler containing the organ. She took a picture of the surgeon and the cooler in the same moment that Adam Wainwright threw the final pitch, a strike, to Brandon Inge and the Cardinals became champions. In the picture, the surgeon is smiling. The cooler containing the organ is navy blue; the surgeon holds it with one hand. Years after the transplant, I find the photo on my mother’s phone while trying to help her clear space for more memory. She asks me to leave it there because she sometimes likes to look at it. I zoom in on the cooler—it is the closest I’ve ever come to seeing the heart now inside my chest or a picture of the donor.

To read the rest of this piece, go here.

Excerpt from “Your Hearts, Your Scars.” Copyright © 2022 by Adina Talve-Goodman. Forthcoming Jan. 24, 2023, by Bellevue Literary Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.