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
“Unite and Celebrate: A Band of Roma,” my lyric essay celebrating International Roma Day, is in Quail Bell Magazine. The essay revels in Romani culture, takes a hard look at Romani human rights infringements in the U.S. and Europe, honors Papusza and other important Romani artists, professionals, activists, and writers, and explores a little family history.
An important part of today is education and awareness, and spreading the word does a lot to highlight the current Romani human rights crisis in the U.S. and Europe. A large part of the new wave of Romani activism is art and writing, which feels both beautiful and fitting, both for the Roma legacy of arts and the “GypsyRepresent” ethos. Thanks for reading, and thank you for sharing. Opre Roma!
I am so thankful to the wonderful Quail Bell Magazine for publishing this essay on the recent “Gypsy child-stealing” hysteria. My grandmother is a “blond angel” too, and the rhetoric surrounding her experiences in WWII and Maria’s in Greece rang eerily similar. I’m grateful for a place to tell her story and to take a close look at the politics and complication of Romani identity. In the essay, I link to a lot of excellent Romani writers like Hancock, Marafioti, Pipopotamus, and others, as well as non-Roma writers, who have a lot of intelligent things to say about the politics and complexity of the Maria case and the Romani human rights crisis– if you want to read the essay, I encourage you to read their perspectives too.
And a big thank you to my fantastic students who consistently have thoughtful, intelligent,and perceptive things to say about the human rights crisis, Romani representation, as well as Romani poetry and fiction. Their willingness to think critically about complicated issues reminds me that their generation has enormous potential for world-wide change for the better. I learn from them each class, too.