Keija Parssinen is the author of the novel The Ruins of Us, which was published in the US (HarperCollins), UK (Faber& Faber), Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Italy (Newton Compton Editori) and around the Middle East. The novel earned a Michener-Copernicus award, was long-listed for the Chautauqua Prize, was chosen as Book of the Month by National Geographic Traveler, and was selected as a Best Book of the Middle East Region 2013 by Turkey’s Today’s Zaman newspaper. In fall 2019, it was published in Arabic by the Syrian Ministry of Culture. Her second novel, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis, won an Alex Award from the American Library Association, was chosen as Book of the Month by Emily St. John Mandel, and was selected as a Best Book of the Year by the Kansas City Star, Lone Star Literary Life, Missouri Life and Vox Magazine.

Her short fiction, essays and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in the New York Review of Books Daily, Gulf Coast, The Southern Review, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Review of Books, the Lonely Planet travel-writing anthologies, World Literature Today, Slate, The Arkansas International, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Slice Magazine, Salon, Five Chapters, New Delta Review, Marie Claire, Off Assignment, and elsewhere. Her work has been supported by fellowships and residencies from Hedgebrook, the Corporation of Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Ragdale, the Vermont Studio Center, Playa Summer Lake, the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, and the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow, where she was a My Time Fellow. Keija was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there for twelve years before her family moved to Austin, Texas. 



Areas of Expertise

Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Travel Writing, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, "Expatriate" Literature, Saudi Arabia


2009 — Master of Fine Arts from University of Iowa

2003 — Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University

Courses Recently Taught

This course introduces students to the elements of fiction writing. While each section of the course will vary in approach and structure, activities and assignments may include intensive reading, workshops, writing, short and flash fiction, and exercises emphasizing various aspects of fiction such as place, dialogue and character. Students should check the online schedule for specific descriptions of each section. Admission to this course is open, though students may not take this course in the first semester of their first year. Seats are reserved for students in each class year. This counts toward the emphasis in creative writing and the creative practice requirement for the major. Offered every year.

This workshop will focus on discussion of participants' fiction as well as on exercises and playful experimentation. Principally, we will be concerned with how stories work at every level. As we consider narrative strategies and practical methods for developing individual styles, along with approaches to revising work, we also will read, as writers, a variety of outside texts. The counts toward the creative writing emphasis and toward the creative practice requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ENGL 200, 202 or 204 (or an equivalent introductory workshop) and permission of instructor via application. (Consult the department for information on the application process and deadlines.) Offered every year.

This seminar is required for English majors pursuing an emphasis in creative writing. The course will involve critical work on a topic chosen by the instructor (such as "Reliable and Unreliable: Investigating Narrative Voice," "Beginnings and Endings," "The Little Magazine in America" and "Documentary Poetics") to provide context and structure for students' creative work. Students should check online listings for the specific focus of each section. Although not primarily a workshop, this seminar will require students to work on a substantial creative project (fiction, nonfiction or poetry). Senior English majors pursuing an emphasis in literature are required to take ENGL 410 instead. Students pursuing honors will take ENGL 497 rather than the Senior Seminar. Prerequisite: senior standing and English major. Offered every year.