VIDA’s list of Twenty ‘Gypsy’ Women You Should Be Reading

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Portrait of Papusza, the mother of Romani poetry

I’m so delighted to share my Twenty Gypsy Women You Should be Reading with everyone In honor of Roma and Traveller History Month,. Gypsy culture is vastly misunderstood and underrepresented, and literature is a beautiful way to discover it. You may not have heard of many of these writers before but they will astound you with their talent. Happy reading!

“And while I spend a lot of time on my soap box bellowing that Roma and Travellers are just human, as a storyteller and a poet, I will say that some of the most beautiful, dark, and hauntingly fantastic stories I’ve ever heard or read have been from Gypsies. It’s a MathildeVonThieleworld-view that outsiders would never be able to reach on their own, and I feel this poignantly as a not-quite-white looking girl who grew up knowing that, way back, her Gypsy ancestors sailed up and down the Danube from Germany to Hungary, working as dancers and fortune tellers in the riparian towns before the war tore everything to shreds. Their lives were not idyllic, but the stories my grandmother told were beautiful. I would hold them close to my chest when I was stoned at school, or given detention for “witchcraft and the evil eye” in a town where there were no Gypsies, where my mother and grandmother routinely referred to the Gypsy community (some abstract thing I imagined) as “they” instead of “we.” I worried about my “percentage of Gypsy” and whether or not it was enough to claim. The few practices my grandmother kept and passed down to me didn’t make sense until I began to research my own people when I was a teenager and realized that alienation is also inheritance. I found Papusza, the Mother of Romani poetry and an omen of exile and connection. I stepped into the river-mouth of my blood.”

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My great-great grandmother Mathilde as a young dancer

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A new adventure! And the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne, France

So the Florida State University class is over– it’s been a really lovely three year contract teaching at FSU, two of which were spent teaching this class, “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves: Writing Creatively about Romani Culture.” I want to say thank you to all my wonderful students– it’s been a pleasure working with everyone and I will always hold this time dear. And thank you to the readers outside my class– it’s so cool and unexpected that y’all would join in to the discussion and I’m so glad that you did. I’m decided to keep the blog going and continue to post about and discuss Romani arts, culture, representation, and human rights. 

I’m very excited about my next teaching adventure– I will be teaching fiction workshops as a guest professor at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne in France! The retreat has been featured in Poets and Writers and has excellent reviews. The application deadline for applications is May 15th. I went on the retreat last year as a guest and absolutely adored it– I discuss how fate aligned my teaching spot this summer in my blog. We went on excursions to Chantilly, Paris, and Picardy; swam in the Château moat; practiced yoga every morning and every evening in the gardens; ate fresh homemade French food; workshopped out work; attended lectures on writing in our private salon; took art classes and sketched on the lawn… it’s a good thing. Obviously, I would like all the delightful and talented people I know to join us on this gorgeous retreat, so think about it. Click here for more information, a sample syllabus, tuition and housing, applications, etc. 

Thanks again for a fantastic semester and a rewarding 3 years– I’ll miss you all, and I’m also happy about what’s coming up in the present. Have a great summer everyone and kushti baxt! (Best of luck!) And maybe I’ll see you in France–