June is Gypsy, Roma, & Traveller History Month!

I should have made this post ages ago since it’s halfway through the month, but, hooray! I’ve been adventuring a lot, first in Ireland, then Mexico, then the Florida Keys. But now I’m back, and this is month is dedicated to celebrating Romani and Traveller culture and remembering history. It feels like the best way to honor the month is to post a small pastiche of articles that touch on the subject from around the web. I’ll keep the posts coming, this is just a starter, and I have a few articles coming out on the topic soon too. The hashtag I’ve been using on Twitter is #RomaTravellerHistoryMonth and my handle is @JSReidy, if you want to follow. There’s also https://www.facebook.com/endromaniexploitation to consider.


1. Settela Steinbach’s image was used as the haunting symbol of the Jewish Holocaust for a long time before it was discovered that Settela was a Sinti Romani girl. Read about her life, journey, and remember her in Romedia’s post, SETTELA STEINBACH, A NEARLY-FORGOTTEN SINTI-ROMA STORY FROM WWII


Still from the “Westerbork film” showing Settela peeking outside through the crack. Courtesy of the WWII Image Bank-   National Institute for War Documentation.

Still from the “Westerbork film” showing Settela peeking outside through the crack. Courtesy of the WWII Image Bank- National Institute for War Documentation.

2. http://www.imninalu.net/ has an interesting list of past and present “Famous Gypsies”

3. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published, “Teaching of the Roma and Sinti genocide is crucial to addressing discrimination, say participants at OSCE meeting,”


The Romani Library Project aims to promote and make available across Europe modern literature of the Roma culture. Its origins lie in a collaboration between expert academic institutions, European publishers with an intercultural perspective, Roma cultural organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations with experience in Romani publishing.

Arts and Culture:

1. Opre Roma – Roma, Stand up! A feature documentary film about Roma rappers and an emerging underground Roma hip hop scene in the Balkans.

2. Flamenco is a Gitano dance, and this performance charts its Indian roots to its Spanish birth.

3. Gypsy Fever, the London-based Balkan Romani music and Manouche Jazz fusion group tears it up with a swing-rock beat.

Gypsy Fever. Image Source: http://quecumbar.co.uk/

Gypsy Fever. Image Source: http://quecumbar.co.uk/

4. Gypsy artist Lita Cabellut “The Starcatchers” opening night at Opera Gallery Seoul with fashion designer Lie Sang Bong

Recent News:

Tania Leontieff just became Israel’s first Romani police officer.

Articles on ethnicity and culture:

Filip Borev, author of the blog Pipopotamus, writes in “What is in a word? ‘Gypsy’: pride or prejudice” about why he identifies as Gypsy, not a Rom, and why that’s ok. In another post, “International Romani Day: and why this year will be my last,” he explains the problems with a “Roma nation” and the trouble with the Romani Rights movement being led by people outside of the culture.


Are you familiar with those travel blogs that tell you “how to spot a Gypsy” and continue on with a bunch of racist nonsense under the guise of “educating” tourists? If not, lucky you. I wrote a satirical guide in that vein for Bathshebas called “American Gypsies Travelling in Europe: how to recognize white people.” Hold onto your babies!



Class reflection: Extra Credit

So it’s the end of the semester and everything is winding down, but maybe you still need to amp up your blog. So tell me what you got out of this semester in 300 words or more. You can respond to this in a lot of ways– What was your experience like? What did you learn? Did anything surprise you? How will you apply it? Use specific examples to illustrate your points– was there a writing exercise that was helpful? A story that you loved? A song? A cultural practice that made you want to write? etc. Whatever you want to talk about from this semester, go for it. 

Everyone did a fantastic job on their presentations– if you had more to share or we didn’t get to yours, post whatever materials you have on your blog. Be sure to check out your classmates’ work.



The Romani husband and wife team of The Avalon Jazz Band

See them perform in Central Park: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBHncqy9myE


Class begins again!

This post marks the end of ENC1142-10 “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves: Writing Creatively about Romani Culture” (well… it ended back in April) and the beginning of ENC1142-03. I feel especially fortunate to have worked with my past class of creative and critical writers, and I’m so excited about this semester’s group. 

Over the summer I had the opportunity to go on a writer’s retreat in Verderonne, France with the Cambridge Writer’s Workshop which I won’t go on at length about here, but I will say that it was such a nurturing ad intelligent community of writers and incredibly helpful for my novel. I stayed on in Paris for another week to research post-WWII Romani culture in Paris, and I had the opportunity to see some absolutely unreal Manouche jazz at L’Atelier Charonne, a fantastic bar and restaurant that has Gypsy jazz EVERY NIGHT from 9-12. If you’re interested, I go on at length about these experiences at jessicareidy.com 

I’ve been wondering if it’s relevant to the discussion we have on this blog to add that my story “We Rise Up” was story of the week in Narrative Magazine several weeks ago. It is relevant because it’s about Romani culture and social issues, I’m just feeling shy. And honored. Very honored.

So that’s what happened over summer vacation. I’d like to invite my past students to get involved in this semester’s discussions as much or as little as you like. You can also just run happily in the other direction. Follow your bliss.

And for my new students, your 300 word blog responses are due Friday at midnight and you need to make a five-sentence comment on another classmate’s response by Sunday at midnight. I’m looking forward to reading your posts. 

And I’d also like to say, welcome back to all the lovely and supportive readers outside this class. We so appreciate your insights and your readership. Thank you!