BIOGRAPHY

Between Two Kingdoms

Random. Feb. 2021. 368p. ISBN 9780399588587. $28. MEMOIR
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Jaouad, a columnist who chronicled her battle with cancer in the New York Times, expands on her experience in her debut memoir. At the age of 22, newly graduated from Princeton, she is diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She undergoes a plethora of intense treatments, including a bone marrow transplant and endless rounds of chemotherapy. Jaouad is adroit at describing the conflicting emotions she wades through, including rage, guilt, fear, longing, defiance, and gratitude. She befriends other cancer patients along the way, including a radiant artist named Melissa, who refuses to let her terminal diagnosis prevent her from traveling to India. Jaouad’s relationship with a loyal boyfriend ultimately doesn’t survive the years-long ordeal, but she finds a creative outlet through her column. Her writing attracts a multitude of readers and fellow survivors whom she seeks out on a 100-day road trip across the country when her health stabilizes.
VERDICT The author’s book title is a nod to Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, in which she asserts that there is a “kingdom of the well” and a “kingdom of the sick.” Jaouad does a beautiful job of writing from this place of “dual citizenship,” where she finds pain but also joy, kinship, and possibility.

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