Stephanie Elizondo Griest has mingled with the Russian Mafiya, polished propaganda in China, and danced with rumba queens in Cuba. These adventures inspired her award-winning memoirs Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana (Villard/Random House, 2004), Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines (Washington Square Press/Simon & Schuster, 2008), and the guidebook 100 Places Every Woman Should Go (Travelers’ Tales, 2007). She won the 2007 Richard J. Margolis Award for Social Justice Reporting and edited Best Women’s Travel Writing (Travelers’ Tales, 2010). UNC Press will publish a book of her essays about the U.S. borderlands in 2016.
A dedicated teacher, Griest has taught at more than a dozen writer’s conferences as well as at literary organizations like Media Bistro, 826 Valencia, Gemini Ink, and Grub Street. From 2010-2012, she taught creative nonfiction to undergraduates at the University of Iowa as a Dean’s Graduate Fellow, and during the 2012-2013 academic year, she served as the Viebranz Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at St. Lawrence University. In fall 2013, she became Assistant Professor and Margaret Shuping Fellow of Creative Nonfiction at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
A passionate activist, Griest co-founded the Youth Free Expression Network, an anti-censorship organization for teens that is a program of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) in New York City. She once logged in 45,000 miles on a 42-state journey across America, documenting history that is generally overlooked in classroom textbooks for a non-profit educational website called The Odyssey. She filed 50 articles, hundreds of photographs, and a dozen video documentaries for an audience of 100,000 K-12 students at www.ustrek.org.
As a journalist, Griest was a political reporter at the Austin bureau of the Associated Press, where she covered George W. Bush’s last legislative session as governor and his bid for the presidency. Before that, she edited and taught journalism at China Daily, the English mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, while serving as a Henry Luce Scholar in Beijing. During her three month tenure as a Scotty Reston Fellow at the New York Times, she wrote about male belly dancers, Latina film makers, and dentists who replace canines with fangs. An article she wrote about religious cults for the Washington Post garnered her a spot on the 1996 USA TODAY All Academic First Team. She also covered Seattle’s grunge scene for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Austin’s drag queens for The Texas Triangle. She has contributed to the anthologies Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times (Basic Books, 2004), Lengua Fresca: Latinos Writing on the Edge (Mariner Books, 2006), Go Your Own Way (Seal Press, 2007), The Other Latino (University of Arizona Press, 2011), Count on Me: Heartfelt Stories of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships (Simon & Schuster, 2012), Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education (University of Nebraska Press, 2014) and Amazing Place: What North Carolina Means to Writers (University of North Carolina Press, 2015). Her essays have appeared in The Believer, The Oxford American, The Wilson Quarterly, Earth Island Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Texas Monthly Magazine, Florida Review, Witness, Writing on the Edge, and Poets & Writers; her book reviews have appeared in The Texas Observer and Los Angeles Review of Books; and her travel adventures have appeared in Latina Magazine; Bitch Magazine; World Pulse Magazine; Traveler’s Tales: Cuba; Traveler’s Tales: A Fork in Her Road; Traveler’s Tales: Turkey; Traveler’s Tales: China; Traveler’s Tales: Whose Panties are These?; Traveler’s Tales: A Woman’s Europe; Traveler’s Tales: Hyenas Laughed at Me and Now I Know Why; Traveler’s Tales: Best of Traveler’s Tales 2004; Best of Travelers’ Tales 2009; Best of Travelers’ Tales Volume X; Travelers’ Tales: Best of Women’s Travel Writing 2006; Traveler’s Tales: Prague and the Czech Republic; Travelers’ Tales: A Women’s World Again; Q Magazine; and Many Mountains Moving.
Her writing hasn’t gone unnoticed. She was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University for the 2005-2006 academic year, a UNC Faculty Fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities in Fall 2015, and has won residencies at Sangam House in Bangalore, India; Can Serrat outside Barcelona, Spain; the Art Omi International Arts Center in Ghent, New York; the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas; the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City, Nebraska; and Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois. Around the Bloc was named “Book of the Year” by the Mayor’s Book Club of Austin, Texas; “Best Travel Book of 2004″ by the National Association of Travel Journalists of America, and a “Best Book of 2004″ by the San Francisco Chronicle. 100 Places Every Woman Should Go won the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation’s Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism’s “Gold Prize for Best Travel Book” in 2007 and the “Best Travel Book” in the International Latino Book Awards in 2008. Mexican Enough won the 2009 PEN Southwest Book Award for Nonfiction and Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 won the gold medal for Best Travel Book in the Independent Book Publishers Awards. Griest has also been awarded honors and scholarships from the following organizations: USA Today, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Freedom Forum, the Network of Hispanic Communicators, the Headliners Foundation, the Pan-American Golf Writer’s Association, Scripps-Howard, the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Journalism. She has been a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York City since 2005, a member of PEN since 2008, a Macondista (of Sandra Cisneros’s Macondo Workshop) since 2009, and a member of the Texas Institute of Letters since 2013. In 2015, she served as a cultural ambassador to Venezuela and Colombia as part of the International Writing Program’s Lecture Tours. She also served as Lecturer of a UNC General Alumni Association tour of the Mediterranean.
Griest’s foremost love is the open road, and her wanderlust has taken her to more than 40 countries, including Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, China, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Egypt, Viet Nam, Albania, Burma, Venezuela, Cuba, Swaziland, and Mozambique. She has also traveled to 49 of the United States. From August 2006 to August 2009, she lived nomadically, with three-quarters of her belongings kept in storage in Manhattan and the rest stuffed in her backpack(s).
Griest completed her MFA in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 2012. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1997 from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in journalism and Post-Soviet Studies and earned a certificate of Advanced Russian from the Moscow Linguistics Institute. She learned Spanish at the Ole Language School of Queretaro, Mexico and picked up Mandarin on the streets of Beijing.
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