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Guest: Jasmine Vyas
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Discussed in this episode
Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price
Your Favorite Book Podcast with Malavika Praseed
The Stacks Podcast
What Should I Read Next Podcast
What We Carry: A Memoir by Maya Shanbhag Lang
Two Spies in Caracas by Moisés Naím
Slouching Toward Bethlehem: Essays by Joan Didion
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Britt Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman
Beartown by Frederick Backman
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Discussed in our Patreon Excerpt:
Romana Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary (check out this cute 8-book box set of Ramona and Beezus books!)
The Baby-Sitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin– I found a fun Retro Set and a Graphic Novel collection!
Sweet Valley Twins
Hatchet by Gary Paulson
Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
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Hello, Bookworms, welcome to the Best Book Ever, the podcast where we talk about your favorite books. I’m your host, Julie Strauss, and today I’m talking to Jasmine Vyas. Jasmine is an avid reader, an attorney, a privacy professional, a mom, and an aspiring children’s book author. How is that for an incredible bio? Rest assured, this is an episode in which we will be talking about not working, about how we work too much, and about how our work does not define our worthiness. I loved talking to Jasmine about why the book “Laziness Does Not Exist” by Dr. Devin price is the Best Book Ever.
Whether they read a book a day or a book a year, I love asking people to tell me about their favorite books. And that includes you, dear listener. What’s your all-time favorite? Your desert island classic? What about the childhood favorite that you still know by heart? The mystery that took you by surprise? The biography that changed your way of thinking? Or the book club favorite that you can’t stop thinking about? I’m looking for guests from all walks of life to talk to me about all kinds of books here on the show. Go HERE to apply to be on the show. I’m really looking forward to talking to you
Now, back to the show.
Julie Strauss: Hi, Jasmine. Welcome to the Best Book Ever podcast.
Jasmine Vyas: Thank you so much for having me.
JS: I’m delighted to have you here because you have been a guest already on my friend Malavika’s podcast, called Your Favorite Book. I adore Malavika. I think she’s brilliant. We’re going to get into the book you talked about with her, but before we go there, I want to ask you, will you share any other book podcasts that you love? Because I think with book podcasts, listeners just want more and more. Do you have some favorites you could share with us?
JV: I have a couple. In addition to my weekly podcast and this podcast, there’s one called The Stacks, which is Traci Thomas, I think is her last name? I think she’s part of a network now, but she focuses on writers of color and especially Black writers and always bringing in diversity into the conversation, which is something that I’m really passionate about as well. There is the Ann Bogel podcast, What Should I Read Next? That one I really like. During the pandemic I found, a very relaxing hobby of going bike riding and having that podcast on and just listening to people talk about books. So yeah, those were there a couple of the ones that I liked.
JS: So when you were on Your Favorite Book, you chose a book called What We Carry, which is a memoir by Maya Lang. And today we’re talking about another non-fiction book. My first question is that’s two nonfiction books that you’ve declared publicly on podcasts as your favorite books, are you normally a non-fiction reader?
JV: You know what the funny thing is, I’m not. I do read a lot of memoir, but, other than memoir, I don’t read a lot of nonfiction. I have to confess now, the favorite book thing, I just can never pick a favorite book. And so I always feel like if there’s the book that’s on my mind right now stuck with me, but who knows. Another book could come along and take its place very easily. I read a lot. I read fiction, like I was mentioning earlier and historical fiction. I like to focus on writers of color. I’m really interested in books about work.
JS: When you say that you are interested in books about work, do you mean that in terms of productivity or do you mean it in terms of like, even in fiction?
JV: Even in fiction I’m interested in books about work. What does paid work mean to us and how can it be structured and what are the forces that affect it? Why are people motivated to work? How has work paid work changed over time? Not really the productivity aspect, I’ll listen to a podcast or something about that. I just don’t see myself reading a whole book about that, at least not in this stage of my life. Over the past year, 2020, of course, everybody knows that that meant a lot of things to a lot of people. And one thing that really resonated from that time was burnout. And it seemed like everybody was always having to do something. Myself, I’m a parent, I work full-time, I’m an attorney, I’m a certified privacy professional. And so having to be both the teacher and the tech support for my kids – I just felt tired a lot. And I felt like there was a lot on my plate and there wasn’t a lot of downtime. And then there was just a reckoning with my own personality, which is, I just always want to be doing something. I always feel like I need to be achieving something. Like I have a very hard time just resting and doing nothing. I was interested in exploring that. So those are a couple of things that drew me to then pick up this book.
JS: Let’s talk about this book, then. It’s called Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price. Can you give my listeners a quick summary of what it is, what it’s about?
JV: Sure. This book is by a social science researcher, Dr. Devon Price. The book is about what they call the “Laziness Lie.” The laziness lie is: I’m worthless, I must work constantly with no end, my worth in life is my work, and my productivity and work has a moral value. If we believe the lie, it affects us in three ways. One, our worth is our productivity. Two, it makes us not trust our own feelings and limits. Three, which is related, you can always do more. And I think that anybody in our society can relate to this because we’re in this environment where work has changed. Our work hours have changed. We’re working longer. If you want to advance in your career, you’re doing things outside of work to advance your career. If you have a family or kids, or if you’re a caregiver for an elder or you have pets, I mean, many people have caregiving responsibilities. It seems like it’s getting harder just because of, probably because of expectations and partly because of things like not having, adequate parental paid leave and childcare options. This was kind of all just going around in my brain and this laziness lie really resonated with me because I thought, oh gosh, how many times have we brow beaten ourselves saying, oh, I’m being lazy. I was supposed to do this, but I got lazy. This author really challenged me to reframe what I was calling laziness and what it really was. They say what we call laziness can often be three things. One is, it can be depression. Two, it can be procrastination. Three, it can be apathy.
It made me think about my life and my expectations of myself in a different way. In a way, I would say it’s a self-help book, even though it’s not really written that way. They, Dr. Price, is a social science researcher or maybe it’s a social psychologist. Anyway, they are a researcher. So there’s research in this book. So it’s not a typical kind of self-help book. But a lot of the concepts that were explained made me walk away and think, gosh, I really got to work on myself in these areas because I think that some of the ways that I’m feeling maybe are because of the expectations that I have on myself, and I think that a lot of people can relate.
JS: So you walked away from this book brow beating yourself because you’re so lazy about your mental wellbeing?
JV: Exactly! I need to be doing more! I need have like a grid that I can check something off.
JV: Yes. I think it sounds like you can relate. I mean, you’ve got a full time job, you’re a parent, you’ve got a podcast.
JS: Do you see yourself on this matrix? Because I looked at your bio and I thought, oh my God, what am I doing with my life? You have this really incredible career and you’re a mom.
JV: Yeah. And I think, just like you, there’s been so many times when I read someone else’s bio or I look at someone else’s accomplishments and I think like, gosh, what am I doing with my life? When the funny thing is, you know, someone might look at me and think the same thing, and I think what we’re all a victim of, or what we’re all doing to ourselves is, we’re all beating ourselves up for not doing it enough. And that’s exactly what this book advises us not to do. And in a weird way, I mean, if you can implement some of these things, you may find yourself becoming more creative, fulfilled and possibly more productive. Although I don’t know if the author really wants us to reach that conclusion. Because the author really is about lowering expectations of ourselves and, and accepting our limitations. I do think that there’s something very rewarding about work. I like working hard and I think that in the right conditions, a lot of people really like the feeling of being immersed in work. I just think that sometimes we can approach it the wrong way and then it becomes too much. And I think we always have to check in with ourselves to see if it’s too much.
JS: Were there practical steps that you took after you read this, or anything specific that you did to change your life after you read this?
JV: So I gotta admit right when I read it, which was a couple of months ago, I was like, I’m really gonna implement this. I think this person should write a workbook because there were a lot of actionable steps in the book that you could do. Unfortunately, I did not get as systematic as I had hoped, but I do still pause. One of the things that the book talks about is when there’s an expectation that everybody has to have a side hustle, like any activity that you do cannot just be purely for the pleasure of it. You can’t just do something and not be good at it. That is another way that we’re placing demands on ourselves, and that’s leading to, you know, it’s just not healthy for us. So I really try to now let myself be a beginner in things. I play soccer as a hobby and, you know, I’m not a great player, honestly, but I really enjoy it. And so I try to just let myself say, okay, this is something that I can enjoy and I do not have to be the best at it. Same thing with Instagram. I mean, I started my book-focused Instagram because I was reading a lot during the pandemic and I wanted to bring attention to authors of color and other underrepresented authors. And this book made me think about like, well, what pressure am I putting on myself in this Instagram? Am I feeling like, oh, I don’t have enough followers? Is it really making a difference? And now, I’m at a place where I’m like, well, really what is the point? Maybe I can make it just more for myself or, or reduce some of my expectations about it and just try to do it for fun, just because I like discussing books.
JS: I like that you mentioned the productivity thing. What I was afraid of as I was reading this was that I kept thinking we were going to veer into, and now that you’re more relaxed, you will be more productive! And I was so afraid that’s where we were going. And it didn’t. This book stuck with, you take care of yourself for the sake of taking care of yourself, not just so you can work harder. And I really was happy that was where we landed, because I was a little hesitant going in. I thought, oh God, it’s going to be yet another thing I have to do. Keep some sort of, I don’t know, online checklist about how much I rested today or something.
JV: Have you read books like that, where it sort of browbeats you or made you feel like, okay, this is homework so you can be and do more?
JS: Oh, yeah. I think it’s a really common thing in a lot of books. Yeah, you’re tired, but if you just work harder, you’ll have more time.
JV: You know, I’m really glad you brought that up because you’re right. There are a lot of books out there that are – I think toxic positivity is the right word, the right phrase. And one thing I liked about the book was that they, the author, used a lot of examples about people who are non-binary or gender non-conforming. And they raised an excellent point, which is that people who are minorities often have to feel like they have to work harder to prove themselves to get over the effects of discrimination. And of course, that leads to more burnout. And that was something that I could relate to. And if we don’t acknowledge some of these sort of structural barriers, I think we’re really doing people a disservice.
JS: I love that they connected it to that. This is not just about you and your life. This is about how you are going out into the world.
JV: I’m so glad you brought that up, because that was a part that wasn’t at the top of my mind. But now that you remind me, it really was effective the way that they talked about a person who is homeless and like what they have to go through everyday just to, just to survive, just to get through a day. And how a lot of times in our society, we put this moral value on work and then by extension on poverty. That’s something that we see even in our social policies, in our schools, and just many areas of life. We see that there is this equation of working, of being able to work, equal to morality and worth. No wonder we are all internalizing this and really pushing ourselves to always be doing, always striving. Which, you know, can be unhealthy.
JS: How do you handle that as a parent? I find that to be a very fine line to walk.
JV: Absolutely. And I was a little bit dreading it when you said, how do you do it? Because I don’t know. I really don’t know the answer. There is a huge value to having to understand, you know, when you have a block of time, what am I going to do with myself? How do I organize myself?I have read about kids who don’t get a lot of unstructured time and how they then struggle when they go to college because they just don’t really know what to do with themselves when they’re not completely scheduled with activities. But at the same time, in 2020, and even this year with kids doing virtual schooling and parents trying to work from home, sometimes when your kids telling you I’m bored, I’m bored, you think of something for them to do. Cause you’re like, I’ve got to focus on my work. Read this book or go draw this thing or, you know, watch TV. And I feel like TV time was really the nice, quiet time that my husband and I got to focus on our work and get everything done that we hadn’t gotten done earlier in the day. Even if we had started on it, we didn’t have that quiet, focused time. So, I really don’t know the answer. I mean, I think for me, I am a creative person, like you. I love drawing and painting and embroidery and just making stuff. I guess I would say I’m a maker. I try to always have art supplies in the house so that they can access so that they can make stuff. And I guess it helps that I have a higher tolerance for mess than some people. I will never win the clean house award, you know?
JS: See, that’s another thing, isn’t it? That’s another way we’ve been taught that our work ethic equates goodness. I have the same feeling. Like, I guess I’ll never have a clean house. So what? Who the hell cares? If my kids are happy, why do I care?
JV: I really think that we get that message and you know, of course last year people were not able to socialize as much, but now when people are able to visit each other at home. I had a bunch of family in town this year and I was like, oh God, I hope they’re not judging me for my messy house, but I just cannot get to everything. My husband pitches into, but with all of us in a small space, it never really got super clean. And one of my friends reminded me, just tell them that your house is a school, it’s an office, it’s a house, it’s a playground. So it’s just everything right now. I think we have so many of these cultural messages ingrained, like you’re saying, you know, having a clean house is a sign of being worthy or a moral person, right? Being a good mom. And I think we have to identify these things and be very conscious about saying, well, that’s not my value. Like that’s not important to me, or that doesn’t say anything about my value, the state of my house or how clean it is.
JS: So then to stay on the busy-ness question, you, as a woman with, I mean, I think being an attorney, it has always seemed to me like a very intense job. And you have a lot of kids. How do you find the time, or make the time, to read so much? How are you able to fit reading into such a busy life?
JV: It’s not a great, healthy answer, but a lot of times I stay up late and read, because that’s the time when I have quiet time and I can read. And then I also do a lot of eBooks. So like on my phone, like here and there, you know, when I have some downtime, I’ll read them. But I just enjoy it so much that to me, it’s worth it to make the sacrifices. But again, this book, why it resonated so much with me, is that even something like reading, that’s fun, can it get this moral value attached? Like, oh, well, I’ve got to read these books and I think for some people, they feel like, well, I’m not reading enough. And it’s like, well, who cares if you like watching TV? Watch TV, if you like it. Go outside and go biking. Do that, you know? Do what makes you happy. And if it’s not reading, it’s fine, you know?
JS: Well, I’m really glad you said that. Cause that’s what I was getting at. So you treat reading as one of your fun hobbies, not as a challenge or a job or anything like that?
JV: I try not to, although sometimes I get ARCs and I’m like, well, I’ve got to review this ARC. That can be a little bit of a struggle sometimes.
JS: Tell me, what are you reading right now?
JV: I am reading a book called Two Spies in Caracas.
JS: What is that? I’ve never heard of it.
JV: It an ARC. Amazon published it.
JS: We should tell my listeners what an ARC means.
JV: Advanced Reader Copy.
JS: Which is something that publishers send to you because you are a book reviewer.
JV: Yes. Although now that I think about it, Amazon has this thing called First Reads. And if you’re a Prime member, then you can get access to read certain books early that they have selected. I go back and forth with Amazon. Sometimes I’m a Prime member. Sometimes I’m not. There are some things about the company that I don’t want to support. But this book, I will support because it’s, it’s a spy novel, it’s a thriller, but it also integrates the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, which is something that I did not know a lot about. And it integrates true events from his rise to power with some fictional characters. On my own, I’m not really one to sit down and pick up a history book to read. I might listen to a podcast, but not a book, but when I read a book like this and then I think, oh my gosh, that happened? Wow. And then I’ll look it up and I’m like, whoa, that really did happen. They really did have this huge mudslide that washed out all these villages. He really did tell people to go out and vote when that happened. So, that’s been a really interesting. How about you? What are you reading? I feel like I’m not asking you enough questions. I want to know about you.
JS: Actually. I just picked up Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. My library is open again. I cried a lot on my first day back in there, and I just kind of walked around touching things.
JV: I saw that my library was open, but I haven’t been able to get in there because the timing hasn’t worked out yet. But I was thinking the same thing. Like when I go in there, I think I’m going to get a little teary. And I think I’m just going to feel this deep sense of gratitude because thank God for books.
JS: Thank God. I love my library so much and I love our librarians. I just, I love it.
JV: Do they know you as a regular? They do. Yes. They were open during the pandemic and every time we came in, they had this great system where you would open up your trunk and they would come around to the trunk and you’re not supposed to have any contact, but I would always roll it then my window and go I miss you! I love that. My favorite thing to do is when I go up to check out the books, they scan through it and go, oh, I read this one. It’s great. Or, I didn’t like this one, I can’t wait to hear what you think. Oh gosh, I missed them.
JV: So, so awesome. Your library sounds great.
JS: It’s so good. So I got, of course, about a thousand more books than I could possibly read in the three weeks.
JV: I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that.
JS: It’s so ridiculous. But, I just started yesterday, Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion, which I love her so much. Oh, you know what else I have is Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge.
JV: I am like two thirds of the way through that. I put it down and I need to pick it up again.
JS: So you didn’t stop cause you disliked it? You just got distracted by something else?
JV: Yes. I tend to read a bunch of different books at once. Things just come to the top of the pile and I’m like, okay, I’m going to put this one aside and then start another one. And then I sort of forget that, and then I go back to it later. Not the best way to read books, but at this point, I don’t know how to stop doing it.
JS: I know I don’t either. I get so scattered. You know what I just listened to on audio was Britt Marie Was Here.
JV: I actually don’t listen to a lot of audio books, but I think that one, I did listen to an audio book. I liked it.
JS: I cried. I was like, who cares about stupid soccer? You care about soccer!
JV: This lady does!
JS: So you must have really liked it. Cause I loved it and I couldn’t care less about soccer. I couldn’t believe how much he made me care about this soccer team.
JV: I think that was the magic of that book. I’m always drawn to odd balls who come together. It’s heartwarming, and I like that story. Frederick Bachman tells that really well. Especially when it’s a crotchety old person. I mean, it doesn’t have to be an old person. Young people can be crotchety too. But just the connections that the people built, and soccer just, happened to be the thing, you know?
JS: Yeah. I like that. Now, have you read a lot of his books? Because I’ve only read the two. I’ve only read A Man Called Ove and now Britt Marie.
JV: I started Beartown, but I didn’t get through it. And I feel like everyone loved that one, but I was just like, meh.
JV: So what’s the Joan Didion book about?
JS: Well, it’s a collection of essays. I have just always liked her style. And particularly when she writes about California, she really kind of gets the crazy moods. I read two books in a row that talked about the Santa Ana Winds of California. And it’s just a really specific madness.
JV: Yeah. It’s funny you say that because it’s such a specific thing to Southern California. I haven’t read any of her work, but you telling me that makes me want to pick up that book and read about the Santa Ana Winds. Cause you’re right. It’s like a restlessness. It’s hot. It’s fires. And it’s very specific Southern California kind of feeling.
JS: Why don’t you tell my listeners where they can find you and your beautiful Instagram account?
JV: Oh, thank you. I’m on Instagram, at Bookblanketfort. Like, you know, some people like making blanket forts? Mine is made out of books. So it’s book blanket fort. And I also review books on Goodreads.
JS: Can I ask you why focusing on authors of color is such a priority for you, and when that became your focus?
JV: you know, I am a person of color myself, and I was always a big reader and it was rare to see somebody who looked like me in a book. I just really craved that. And when I was in college, I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. It’s a short story collection by an Indian American author. To me, that was just so revolutionary, seeing a book and reading a book that was a real published book, not like some, you know, thing bound together at Kinko’s with a plastic – I don’t even know what you call those. A plastic binding.
JS: Yep, I know exactly what you’re talking about.
JV: Yeah. It was like, oh, this is a real book. It’s a real paperback. And it just made me feel so seen. As I became more aware, I think, as a reader, of the fact that there was so much missing in the world of books, I really started to seek it out. As I think about what’s on the best seller lists and what books get the most attention and marketing, stories that are at the forefront in our culture, I noticed that they’re often not people of color or people from a minority religion or who are LGBTQ+. I just felt like, gosh, there were so many good stories out there that are not getting enough attention. And my hope was that I could shed some light on some of these stories that were getting less attention and that I felt needed more attention. So that was sort of where it came from.
JS: This has been such a delight talking to you, and I hope you will come back anytime you have a book you want to talk about.
JV: I told Malavika this, and I’ll tell you: I really liked discussing books, but I don’t like being bound to a book club when I have to read books that I don’t like. I guess that’s kind of Bratty of me. But, if I get to pick a book and the other person agrees that they will read it, and then we get to talk about it, that’s like striking gold for me. So I really appreciate you having me on.
JS: You can bounce between Vika and me every month for the rest of your life.
JV: You guys will probably have to block me.
JS: We’ll call each other and go, you get her this month!
JV: I mean, I love that you have provided a way for people to connect. Even if they can’t meet in person. And one thing that I do a lot is that if I have read a book and I really want to talk about it. and I don’t have anyone, I will look in podcasts and I’ll be like, who has discussed this book? And then I kind of feel like I’m having a conversation. So you really are doing all of us book lovers, you’re giving us such a gift by talking about these books and letting us listen to these conversations.
JS: Well, it is my favorite thing in the world to do so I feel like I sort of struck gold that I actually get to talk to people about books.
JS: Well, thank you so much for joining me today. It has been an absolute delight talking to you. I’m so glad we got to meet and talk.
JV: I will be messaging you if I read any books that I like, and you do the same.
JS: I can’t wait.
Thanks for joining me today. And I will see you at the library.
Thanks for listening, Bookworms! For more information on this episode and links to all the books we discussed, follow the podcast on Instagram. I’m your host, Julie Strauss, and you can also find me on Instagram.
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Thanks for joining me today. I will see you at the library!