Around the bloc my life in moscow beijing and hava fantasticDocument Transcript
Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana by Stephanie Elizondo Griest FantasticDesperate to escape South Texas, Stephanie Elizondo Griest dreamed ofbecoming a foreign correspondent. So she headed to Russia looking forsome excitement—commencing what would become a four-year, twelve-nation Communist bloc tour that shattered her preconceived notions of the“Evil Empire.”In Around the Bloc, Griest relates her experiences as a volunteer at achildren’s shelter in Moscow, a propaganda polisher at the office of theChinese Communist Party’s English-language mouthpiece in Beijing, and abelly dancer among the rumba queens of Havana. She falls in love with anex-soldier who narrowly avoided radiation cleanup duties at Chernobyl,
hangs out with Cuban hip-hop artists, and comes to difficult realizationsabout the meaning of democracy. is the absorbing story of a young journalist driven by a desire to witnessthe effects of Communism. Along the way, she learns the Russianmathematical equation for buying dinner-party vodka (one bottle per guest,plus an extra), stumbles upon Beijing’ s underground gay scene, marcheswith 100,000 mothers demanding Elián González’s return to Cuba, andgains a new appreciation for the Mexican culture she left behind.Personal Review: Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing,and Havana by Stephanie Elizondo GriestAy, caramba!AROUND THE BLOC is more than a coming of age story, dear Readers.The following is a laundry list of what youre genuinely missing when youascribe such facile titles to this amazing little read:1) The wonderful (and many) impactful lines of prose that emanate fromthe pen of someone so young, yet with so much on the ball (at the time ofwriting, that is -- the "young" part, not the "on the ball" part). Griest ispossessed of an awareness that few individuals of mixed ethnicity and/orrace choose to properly acknowledge. Inside the pages of this book,Elizondo Griest attacks this concept with a doggedness and recklessdeliberation thats so downright inspirational! I would like to travel in herwake.2) There were several passages which I came across where I just had toplace the book down beside me to take a deep "resetting" breath. Howauthor managed to touch so many sensitive chords within me, Im positivethe effect was similar on the others. Ms. Elizondo Griest doesnt holdpunches. When she refers to things like love, lust, heartbreak, depression,devastation, and sex, she does **precisely** that. When Griest refers tohow pained she was when the man who meant everything in her lifedropped her for the second time (in as many chances), you hurt right alongthere with her. If you dont, you dont have much of a emotional bone withinyour body. Someone so outspoken and delightful doesnt deserve to gethurt like that. At least this was my initial reaction.3) This is a young woman who has criss-crossed the world and backagain, all in an attempt to seek the answers for the most essential life-donning questions which those of us who take such things for granted arenever inclined to ask. Essential burning questions of indentity. Of the needand desire to understand who she really is at her core--not as a by-productof some consumerist collective--or where she really came from. By dippinginto the collective unconsciousness of several nations of which she herself
wasnt a descendant (Russia, China)...then beginning to relate theselessons to the things she knew and loved about herself (which came aboutmore in Havana). Just gorgeous. In several spots the narrative, the authordelivered up this story with a dramatists expert flourish.~~~~The pages just turned. I never **once** felt a need to stop reading (theonly time I had was because Id been interupted by something other thanthe read).Intentionally, I believe, Griest constructs the narrative with a risingcrescendo. The story commences in Moscow, Russia and moves throughBeijing, China. As the journey concludes in Havana, Cuba, in a countryclosest to her US home, Stephanie comes face to face with a daemonwhich has been dogging her for most of her early adult life.When she least expects to find the answer which has been plaguing hermercilessly, as she describes it, it confronts her hard. It hammers her whenshe finds herself doing an activity which one might consider enough to pullher thoughts away from such critical existential questio ns. Dancing therhumba, or talking with a couple of Cuban college students on the shore ofthe Atlantic Ocean.Rather than writing AROUND THE BLOC and ending things with aquestion mark, Elizondo Griest is even more convinced by the books endabout the righteousness of her choice of having travelled around the entireworld, steadfast in her desire to want to know more about her essentialself.Like a highly sympathetic character in a novel or a film, you really want thisperson to succeed--dareisay win (?)--because the righteousness of hermission is just so important. It becomes as important to you as it initially isto Stephanie.Havent we all had such dilemmas in our life?In this age of mixed identities, to be able to claim a p urity of a connectionto ones ancient or not-so-ancient culture is indeed a complicated decision,rife with paradoxes.Even those who are "so-and-so"--how much of that "so-and-so" can theyreally be in the face of an environment which pulls them into def iningthemselves as something much more general than merely the bindingspecificity of one particular race or (former?) nation-state?There are so many things which lay claim to our selves, at our cores.Griest cannot be blamed for having been sucked into this simplifyingevening-out vortex, too. So deep has she been submerged into the
commonality of the "Western experience," that it has become a compellingstruggle to pull herself out. Like it is for others in her situation, who havewritten about things similarly.It has been an honour and a privilege to follow her along her path. I cantthank her enough for having made me a part.Its been to a gift to witness the changes, as she wrote about them, and asthe book appears to be the culmination of many months and years ofintrospection and sometimes piercing self-doubt.Ive cherished each and every one of these pages. Thank you Stephanie.If there ever were a sixth Amazonian star, it would go to StephanieElizondo Griest.--ADM in Prague For More 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price:Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana by Stephanie Elizondo Griest 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price!