Keija Parssinen (pronounced Kay-a) was born in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia in 1980. In 1951, her grandparents, Floyd and Willette Teel, arrived in Saudi Arabia aboard the Flying Camel to work for the fledgling oil company, ARAMCO (now Saudi ARAMCO), and so began the family's decades-long relationship with the country. For twelve years, Keija lived in the Kingdom's Eastern Province, first in Ras Tanura, then in Dhahran. Writing The Ruins of Us, which is set in the Eastern Province, enabled Keija to return to that home through imagination.

In 1992, the family left Saudi Arabia "for good"―expatriate-speak for retirement, as return is nearly impossible, thanks to strict visa laws--and moved to Austin, Texas. Upon graduating from Lake Travis High School, Keija went north to attend Princeton University. Unable to forget Arabia, she took several Near Eastern Studies classes and even attempted Arabic. She majored in English literature, received a certificate from the Program for the Study of Women and Gender, and wrote her thesis on masculinity in the American quest narrative so that she could satisfy her wanderlust through the adventures of Kerouac and Twain.

After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she studied poetry and fiction writing at the 92nd Street Y, Poets House, the Bowery Poetry Club, and the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop. As her day job, she worked as a fundraiser for a Brooklyn arts-in-education non-profit. From 2007-2009, she studied at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, working with writers Lan Samantha Chang, Scott Spencer, Anthony Swofford, Elizabeth McCracken, and Charles D'Ambrosio. While there, she received a Truman Capote fellowship, a Teaching and Writing fellowship, and was the student editor for the Iowa Short Fiction contest. After finishing the program, she received a Michener-Copernicus award for the The Ruins of Us, which was published by Harper Perennial in North America and Faber & Faber in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa in January 2012. The novel is forthcoming from Newton & Compton in Italy.

Currently, Keija lives in Columbia, Missouri with her husband and son. She is the Director of the Quarry Heights Writers' Workshop, a community for Columbia's creative writers. Her second novel, The Girls of  Port Sabine, will be published by Harper Books in 2015.

Home     Book     Bio     News & Events     Contact     UK Cover