Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book: Gypsy Boy

The third edition of Gypsy, Roma and Taveller History Month is taking place this month. There is precious little material on the LGBT experience in the Gypsy, Roma and Taveller community.

Gypsy Boy: One Boy's Struggle to Escape from a Secret World by Mikey Walsh is one such rare documents. While Mikey's sexuality is not the main theme, it runs throughout the book and tints his experience.

Mikey was born into a Romany Gypsy family. They live in a closeted community, and little is known about their way of life. After centuries of persecution Gypsies are wary of outsiders and if you choose to leave you can never come back. This is something Mikey knows only too well. Growing up, he rarely went to school, and seldom mixed with non-Gypsies. The caravan and camp were his world. But although Mikey inherited a vibrant and loyal culture his family's legacy was bittersweet with a hidden history of grief and abuse. Eventually Mikey was forced to make an agonising decision -- to stay and keep secrets, or escape and find somewhere he could truly belong.

Stephen Fry said of the book that "It was a revelation. Moving, terrifying, funny and brilliant. I shall never forget it - an amazing achievement"; adding on Twitter: "All in pieces after reading this book. The bravery, charm and wit of the author are astonishing." Attitude Magazine called it the "best memoir since Running with Scissors".

You can read a review from a gay perspective on Gary's blog and an interview with Mikey Walsh in the Times here.

Download an interview on the World Service (Outlook, 02/07/10) with the Gypsy Boy challenging the macho Romany traditions here (mp3 - 11Mb).

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