Sunday, December 20, 2009

Roma/Gypsies in Literature

I have known Gypsies, as they were then called, since my early childhood
- the ones who, like us, were hiding in the forests trying to survive
the genocidal Nazi War. Moments with Gypsies, Roma is their rightful
name, followed me along the circuitous course of my life. I never
recognized these people in the writings of non-Gypsies. The Roma, so
different from each other across the world, yet similar at the core,
mostly appear as strange distortions of the ones I have known, in
fiction as well as in most sociological studies.

Roma culture for hundreds of years was an oral culture, leaving no
trace behind. The Roma expressed their feelings in crafts, in music and
in poetry. These poems were written for special occasions, left buried
along with their dead, or tucked away with memories of more joyful
occasions. I am sure, like their music, these poems were expressions of
sadness and beauty. When Papusha, a poet from a Polish tribe, broke that
tradition and published her poetry, she became famous and – ostracized
by her tribe. Mateo Maximoff, a Russian Roma who lived in France,
thankfully self-published a slew of novels and non-fiction depicting the
true spirit of these ancient people

When I humbly approached the difficult task of trying to describe their
culture, seen through Roma eyes, I actually prayed to God to give me the
power of the word. I hope "Dosha", coming out in June, will allow you
to step into the culture and spirit of these ancient people, for whose
fundamental human rights within the new European Union many Roma and
non-Roma are now uniting to fight.

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