Stephanie Elizondo Griest, “Mexican Enough”
Writers tend to reside on the driven side of the artistic scale, and it is what drives a writer that is revealed in their work while it shapes their literary vision. Some seek to capture beauty in language. This is true of poets mostly, but there are novelists and short story writers who are guided by aesthetics. There are those compelled by the power of the tale they want to tell, the psychology of the characters they portray, or simply by the force of creativity that is so strong that the page serves to prevent spontaneous combustion. I have favorite writers in all of these categories. But the authors I need to read are those whose moral compass is strong and exacting, and who conceive of their literary efforts as a way of disclosing and redressing moral wrongs or transforming injustices into justices. Stephanie Elizondo Griest is this kind of writer.
Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines is described best as a multi-directional journey. There is the genealogical path where Elizondo Griest seeks to uncover her Mexican roots; and this is tied closely to the political path where she examines border issues, historical and contemporary, and the problems experienced by those Mexicans who travel to El Norte to find work to support their families. There is the tourist’s surface path to new places and new experiences. And then there is the interior path where inner weaknesses are confronted and strengthened and where sources of untapped strength are uncovered and deployed. The result is a brilliant and beautiful tapestry woven with color, tears and great humor.
The conversation Betsy Kepes and I had with Stephanie Elizondo Griest was a nearly perfect reflection of her style of writing. She has something important to say, and this energized her responses to our questions about her family, immigration issues on the Mexican and Canadian border, the politics of Mexico, and the sheer violence spawned by empire politics, NAFTA and the drug wars. Meeting a writer or artist who is on a moral mission is ennobling and exhausting. You are swept up by the largeness and the potency of her perspective, and by the eloquence and enthusiasm of Elizondo Griest’s voice. But you are also implicated in the corruption she describes. We are commanded to respond to the injustices she has forced us to see.