Showing 1 - 2 of 2 annotations tagged with the keyword "Identity"

Your Hearts, Your Scars

Talve-Goodman, Adina

Last Updated: May-25-2023
Annotated by:
Field, Steven

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay


This slim volume of essays written by a young woman who had a heart transplant packs a wallop, albeit an understated one.  The author, who had a congenital cardiac anomaly that required several surgeries—the first at one day old, another five days later, two more at the ages of two and four years—ultimately developed severe congestive heart failure at sixteen and underwent cardiac transplantation at the age of nineteen (none of this, by the way, is a spoiler; the introduction, written by her sister, lays this out in detail).   Eleven years later she developed lymphoma, a side effect of the immunocompromise induced by her anti-rejection medications, and passed away at the age of 32.  This book was published posthumously, the essays collated and edited by her sister and her friend and colleague at the literary magazine One Story. 

The essays—there are seven of them—deal with life experiences, mostly in the form of encounters with other people, mostly post-transplant.  “I Must Have Been that Man,” which won the Bellevue Literary Review’s Non-Fiction Prize,  begins with a post-party liaison but centers on the author’s meeting with a man in an upended wheelchair out on the street on a rainy night; “Men Who Love Dying Women and Fishing” speculates about what might attract a man to a woman with a terminal illness; “Your Heart, Your Scars, Zombies” offers a novel take on the idea of a zombie occupying a liminal space between the living and the dead and analogizes that to the situation of the post-transplant patient; “Thank God for the Nights That Go Right” speaks to the serendipity—or Higher Power?—that seems to guide our experiences.   They range over the timeline; one recounts a pre-transplant trip with other ill children to San Diego, others come from later in the author’s life.  There is no linear temporal progression to the essays; rather, one gets the impression that they are simply being remembered spontaneously.  Nonetheless, a clear personal narrative emerges.

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Our Missing Hearts

Ng, Celeste

Last Updated: Mar-21-2023
Annotated by:
Trachtman, Howard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel


Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts is set in the not-too-distant future, in the wake of the Crisis that has ineradicably altered American society. After several years of steadily worsening economic downturn and hardship, there is slowly escalating social unrest. Random political violence erupts across the country. A protester is killed and public opinion is inflamed. In the press and social media, China is blamed for the turmoil. This unleashes a wave of discrimination and persecution of Asian Americans. Emergency laws are passed to restore order and to penalize Asian Americans and their sympathizers for purported anti-American behavior. A punitive program is implemented to remove children from parents who are viewed as enemies, real or potential, to the state.

The story centers on a precocious 12-year-old boy, Bird Gardner.  His mother, Margaret Miu, of Chinese ancestry, is a  little known poet who wrote a slim volume of poems several years before the  social fabric began to fray. Without her knowledge, one of the poems, “Our Missing Hearts”, has been adopted as a literary slogan by an underground anti-government resistance movement She is targeted by anti-Asian extremists and harassed by law enforcement. Rather than have her son “replaced,” the government euphemism for removing children from families deemed disloyal and putting them into foster care, she makes the wrenching decision to abandon him and the husband she loves dearly and goes into hiding for three lonely years. She is haunted by the pain of all the removed children and devises an act of protest. It is modeled on  the public works created by current Chinese artists using gunpowder and other unusual materials. Her goal is to increase awareness and hopefully termination of the “replacement” program. Her hope is to trigger mass protest and the return of the removed children to their grieving families. The narrative moves inexorably to an unbearably sad ending.

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