“When the ceiling caves in on you, you no longer assume structural stability. You have to learn to live along fault lines.”— Suleika Jaouad
Suleika Jaouad (@suleikajaouad) is the author of the instant New York Times bestselling memoir Between Two Kingdoms. She wrote the Emmy Award-winning New York Times column + video series “Life, Interrupted,” and her reporting and essays have been featured in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Vogue, and NPR, among others. A highly sought-after speaker, her mainstage TED talk was one of the ten most popular of 2019 and has nearly four million views.
She is also the creator of The Isolation Journals, a community creativity project founded during the COVID-19 pandemic to help others convert isolation into artistic solitude. Over 100,000 people from around the world have joined. You can find one of my favorite prompts, which I shared on my blog last spring, at tim.blog/dialogue.
This episode is brought to you by Dry Farm Wines. I’m a wine drinker, and I love a few glasses over meals with friends. That said, I hate hangovers. For the last few months, all of the wine in my house has been from Dry Farm Wines. Why? At least in my experience, their wine means more fun with fewer headaches. Dry Farm Wines only ships wines that meet very stringent criteria: practically sugar free (less than 0.15g per glass), lower alcohol (less than 12.5% alcohol), additive free (there are more than 70 FDA-approved wine-making additives), lower sulfites, organic, and produced by small family farms.
All Dry Farm Wines are laboratory tested for purity standards by a certified, independent enologist, and all of their wines are also backed by a 100% Happiness Promise—they will either replace or refund any wine you do not love. Last but not least, I find delicious wines I never would have found otherwise. It’s a lot of fun. Dry Farm Wines has a special offer just for listeners of the podcast—an extra bottle in your first box for just one extra penny. Check out all the details at DryFarmWines.com/Tim.
This episode is brought to you by Allform! If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about Helix Sleep mattresses, which I’ve been using since 2017. They just launched a new company called Allform, and they’re making premium, customizable sofas and chairs shipped right to your door—at a fraction of the cost of traditional stores. You can pick your fabric (and they’re all spill, stain, and scratch resistant), the sofa color, the color of the legs, and the sofa size and shape to make sure it’s perfect for you and your home.
Allform arrives in just 3–7 days, and you can assemble it yourself in a few minutes—no tools needed. To find your perfect sofa, check out Allform.com/Tim. Allform is offering 20% off all orders to you, my dear listeners, at Allform.com/Tim.
This episode is brought to you by LMNT! What is LMNT? It’s a delicious, sugar-free electrolyte drink mix. I’ve stocked up on boxes and boxes of this and usually use it 1–2 times per day. LMNT is formulated to help anyone with their electrolyte needs and perfectly suited to folks following a keto, low-carb, or Paleo diet. If you are on a low-carb diet or fasting, electrolytes play a key role in relieving hunger, cramps, headaches, tiredness, and dizziness.
LMNT came up with a very special offer for you, my dear listeners. For a limited time, you can claim a free LMNT Sample Pack—you only cover the cost of shipping. For US customers, this means you can receive an 8-count sample pack for only $5. Simply go to DrinkLMNT.com/Tim to claim your free 8-count sample pack.
What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
Want to hear an episode with another author who went the distance to find her story? Listen to my conversation with Cheryl Strayed, in which we discuss books as religion, writing prompts and processes, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and much more.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Suleika Jaouad:
- Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
- The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad
- Life, Interrupted | The New York Times
- A Dialogue with Yourself: Past, Present, and Future | Tim Ferriss
- The Vigil | The New York Times Magazine
- JRN 449 Writing About War | Princeton University
- Balata Camp | UNRWA
- 5 Mind-Blowing Facts About the Tunisian Arabic | Carthage Magazine
- Khubz Tabouna: Bread in the Tunisian Traditional Way, but Never Mention It in Morocco! | Tunisian Arabic in 24 Lessons
- What Are the Differences Between Tomar Un Taxi and Coger Un Taxi? | SpanishDict Answers
- The Juilliard School
- Suleika Plays Bass | Instagram
- Skidmore College
- Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited by Vladimir Nabokov
- Is Princeton Still Looking for Green Hair? | College Confidential Forums
- Leukemia Symptoms and Causes | Mayo Clinic
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
- The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
- Grey’s Anatomy | Prime Video
- Suleika Jaouad: What Almost Dying Taught Me About Living | TED 2019
- The Power of Myth — The Hero’s Adventure with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers | The Tim Ferriss Show #456
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Cancer | Cancer.Net
- Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag | The New York Review of Books
- What is a Bone Marrow Transplant? | Be The Match
- First Descents
- On The Road Again by Willie Nelson
- The Painter and the Thief | Prime Video
- The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal by Julia Cameron
- Understanding the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon | Healthline
- Suleika Jaouad, Author of “Between Two Kingdoms” Appears in Conversation with Cheryl Strayed | Elliott Bay Book Company
- Why Suleika found spending two weeks in a maximum-security prison’s hospice to write a piece for The New York Times Magazine so inspiring. [06:43]
- How did Suleika Jaouad come by her name, and where did she grow up? [11:51]
- What influenced Suleika’s decision to become a writer, and how did she rise to the challenge of writing about war from the relative safety of Princeton? What about this experience “electrified” Suleika? [14:43]
- After an earlier failure to get into a writing class during her freshman year at Princeton, what gave her the confidence to try again? [21:00]
- Something you never want to ask in a Morrocan restaurant if your Arabic was learned in Tunisia. [22:53]
- How did Suleika go from rebellious teenager to Princeton academic, and what prompted her to take writing more seriously? [26:32]
- What mortality-facing event served as the grist for Suleika’s award-winning column and series Life, Interrupted? [36:32]
- While Suleika didn’t make it through Tolstoy’s War and Peace during this time (and admittedly still hasn’t), what books — including what she considered her “sick girl Bible” — helped her get through it? [41:37]
- What life was like for Suleika post-cancer, and how it differed from what she expected it would be like after four years of treatment. [47:56]
- What post-treatment work helped Suleika come to terms with the ordeal she had survived and the trauma she still endured during her long recovery? What did receiving a possible PTSD diagnosis do to change her approach, and how did this lead to the adventure she would chronicle in Between Two Kingdoms? [54:47]
- Where did the title of this book originate, and what factors went into its selection? [1:01:43]
- How did Suleika land her New York Times column as a 23-year-old in the hospital who only had a 35 percent chance of survival? [1:03:34]
- How did Suleika’s column connect her to the people she would later meet on her road trip, and what did these glimpses into the lives of others provide for her during this time of intense isolation? [1:10:26]
- What got Suleika added to a Montana survivalist family’s “list,” and to what is she entitled for being included? [1:15:56]
- How did the reality of Suleika’s road trip compare with what she’d been expecting from it? How did it help her break the rut in which she’d been in since her — as she calls it — “incanceration?” [1:18:48]
- What advice would Suleika give to a group of people trying to cope with being stuck in a similar period of darkness? [1:30:15]
- What does Suleika’s journaling practice look like? What writing prompt has she found particularly effective over the past few months? [1:34:31]
- Writing what you know vs. writing what you want to understand. [1:43:02]
- What would Suleika’s billboard say? [1:47:11]
- What are The Isolation Journals? [1:48:41]
- Parting thoughts. [1:51:32]
- Suleika’s Parents
- Bryan Stevenson
- Fernando Murillo
- Thanassis Cambanis
- Vladimir Nabokov
- Edward Tufte
- Audre Lorde
- John Green
- Lucy Grealy
- Susan Sontag
- Steven Pressfield
- Willie Nelson
- Viktor Frankl
- Nadia Bolz-Weber
- Julia Cameron
- Holly Jacobs
- Cheryl Strayed
- Benjamin Schreier
- Miguel de Cervantes
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.