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Check It Out: Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad

This is Kelsey Patterson with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Today, I’m recommending Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad. The summer after graduating from college, Suleika was preparing as they say, to enter “the real world.” She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. However, the real world she found, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.

It started with an itch—first on her feet, then up her legs, like a thousand invisible mosquito bites. Next came the exhaustion, and the 6-hour naps that only deepened her fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her 23rd birthday, a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35% chance of survival. Just like that, the life she’d imagined for herself had gone up in flames. By the time Suleika flew home to New York, she’d lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She spent much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling her saga in a column for The New York Times. 

When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward, she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she quickly learned, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. After spending the past 1,500 days in a single-minded pursuit to survive, she realized she had no idea how to live, now that she’d done so.

With her new best friend, Oscar, a scruffy terrier mutt, Suleika embarked on a 15,000-mile road trip across the country. She set out to meet some of the strangers who had written to her while she was in the hospital. I knew this memoir would be good after watching her TED Talk, but I couldn’t have guessed just how good. It is one of the most soulful and insightful memoirs I’ve ever read.

Checkout Between Two Kingdoms and other powerful memoirs like it at the Sioux City Public Library.

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.

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