Twenty-four-year-olds should not write memoirs, but Stephanie Elizondo Griest earns a conditional exception with her charmingly self- effacing memoir Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana (Villard). Following a year of study in Moscow and a year as a journalist in Beijing (the Havana stay, just two weeks in length, is a bit of a bait and switch), the self-proclaimed "militant vegetarian Chicana feminist" from Corpus Christi found her expectations blown up and her American veneer melted down. Around the Bloc reads funny and sad with equal frequency, and Griest's engaging point of view has the earmarks of a journalistic star in the wings.

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