Girmay, raised in southern California, is the inheritor of Eritrean, Puerto Rican, and African American traditions, and writes poetry, essays, and fiction. She holds a B.A. from Connecticut College and an M.F.A. in poetry from New York University. Her children's art book, Changing, Changing, was published by George Braziller in 2005. A former Watson fellow and Cave Canem fellow, she has published extensively in journals and literary magazines. Girmay is on the faculty of Drew University's low residency M.F.A. Program. She also leads community writing workshops in New York.