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


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.”


My great-great grandmother Mathilde as a young dancer


Blog 10: a free for all poem about some aspect of Romani culture (aka: the research poem) (aka: the wild card poem)

For the last poem in our series, you will write a poem inspired by any aspect of Romani culture that you wish. For this, you need to do some research. Pick an aspect of Romani culture that you’re curious about, like rituals, human rights, language, music, dance, history, beliefs, taboos, idioms, celebrations, Romani icons, spirituality, famous Roma, folklore, folk medicine, cuisine, fashion, etc… whatever you fancy. Some good places to start are ROMBASE  PatrinRADOCThe Gypsy Chronicles, and the Romedia Foundation. Also, your coursebooks We are the Romani people and Roads of the Roma will be helpful too. Then, write 300 words or more about the topic you chose, citing your (trustworthy) source, and explain what you want to achieve in your poem.

Here are some more specific examples for inspiration

Romani music

an article on Hungarian Romani music on ROMBASE

Esma Redzepova, one of the most famous Romani singers in Europe, singing Dzelem Dzelem, the Romani anthem, written to commemorate those who died in the Holocaust (O Porrajmos), and for International Roma Day, celebrated April 8th.

Balkanarama— a short list of Romani singers and musicians

 The Avalon Jazz band, Gypsy-style Parisian jazz

Bireli Lagrene, The Gipsy Project, “Minor Swing”

The Gypsy Kings, “Djobi Djoba”

Famous Roma

Papusza, the mother of Romani poetry

Matéo Maximoff,  Romani writer

Katarzyna Pollok, Romani artist

We are the Romani people has a good list of famous Roma

Romani spirituality

Romani (“Gypsy”) Religion by Dr. Ian Hancock

Patrin– Romani beliefs

Rom-facts– Roma Culture: an introduction

The Romani Goddess Kali Sara by Ronald Lee

Romani Fashion

Interview with Erika Varga of Romani Design

“Romani Fashion and the Politics of Dressing ‘Gypsy'” in Quail Bell Magazine


And on and on….

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The Romani flag