Stephanie Elizondo Griest is an assistant professor of creative non-fiction at UNC, as well as the award-winning author of the books "Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana," "Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines," "100 Places Every Woman Should Go," and her latest release, "All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands." Griest said "All the Agents and Saints" came from the conclusion of "Mexican Enough," when she realized through her heritage and homeland, she was a member of the borderland in South Texas. The book tells the stories and struggles of others who live in the borderlands. Griest will be doing a reading of "All the Agents and Saints" at Flyleaf Books next Tuesday.
The Daily Tar Heel: Tell me about your new book, "All the Agents and Saints"
Stephanie Elizondo Griest: It took a decade to write, and it’s third in a series that follows my first two books, "Around the Bloc" and "Mexican Enough." "Around the Bloc" I started working on when I was 18, so these books take me throughout my entire adult life. By the end of ("Mexican Enough") I had concluded that if I moved to Mexico for the rest of my life I would never be Mexican, because I was a member of the borderland — I had grown up in the space between spheres.
So this book begins in 2007, and at that point in my life I was totally nomadic, and without a home for about three years. All my stuff was in storage and I was just floating — I was living in art colonies, I was in a constant stage of book promotion, I was living on the road. I began returning a lot to South Texas. When I left in the mid-90s it had seemed like such a boring place, but when I returned in the 2000's it had become a major news story because of the drug war, and because many undocumented workers had shifted their migration pattern to Texas. And so very close to where I’m from, bodies began to pop up in the borderlands and on ranches – we’re talking hundreds of bodies. So many awful things were happening in my homeland, and a lot of my foundation is in social justice, so I wanted to investigate more. Then just by chance, I happened to get a visiting professorship near the Canadian-New York border, and when I got there I realized there was a community of Mohawk Indians that were living a totally parallel existence to us in South Texas. Basically all of the social problems I found in South Texas had an exact equivalent there. So this book is basically a comparison of the two; it’s looking at the answer to the question of what happens when an international borderline cuts your land in two.
DTH: Since this book was about your home, was it more rewarding than your other books?