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Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  3,377 Ratings  ·  472 Reviews

An Eye-Opening Memoir of Growing Up Gypsy

Mikey Walsh was born into a Romany Gypsy family. They live in a secluded 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 didn’t go to school, he

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Petra Eggs
The kid in this book is a gypsy. His life revolves around organised violence, he has to learn bare-knuckle fighting and to witness it and to regularly experience it. Life is fighting, drinking, getting money (not always legitimately) and staying away from his father. Life gets worse, he's gay... He leaves. He's literate, his saving grace.

Warwick said in the comments on his review of The Fringe Dwellers about attitudes towards the aborigines of Australia: "[I]t seems a bit like that to me too, it
I thought the whole point of Misery Memoirs was that they all look the same. Same black-and-white image of a crying child; same kiddyish cursive font; same plaintive title. Dearth of creativity among publishers aside, at least the reader knows what they’re in for.

When I picked up Gypsy Boy, with its no-nonsense title in block lettering and cheery cover image of a grinning boy, I did not know what I was in for. Gypsy Boy is, in fact, the ultimate Mis-Mem. Ostensibly a colourful memoir about growi
Rebecca McNutt
Gypsy Boy is a riveting portrait of a child growing up traveling and staying isolated within his Romany family. But he wants more for his life, a taste of freedom and individuality. Can he have both freedom and family, or will he have to trade one for the other?
Someone else called this book relentlessly violent and felt the author was using the violence to pander to the prejudice of 'Daily Mail' readers. She is right in one point, the violence and abuse met by a boy of six, eight, twelve... is horrifying in its relentlessness . However, in her rejection she misses just about every other point this book has to make and why people like Stephen Fry think this is a very touching and important piece of auto-biography. For one thing, it is one of the very fe ...more
Jun 11, 2011 Leonie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I ordered this book online the day after hearing the author interviewed on the Choices programme on BBC Radio 4. I don't recall ever having heard such honest and heartfelt and unapolagetic emotion from a man before. I have always been fascinated with Gypsies and their way of life/culture so I hope to learn a little more from this man's story.

It didn't take me long to read this harrowing tale of survival. I was shocked at just exactly how violent the life of a young gypsy man could be and how un
A sad tale of a young boy who struggles to fit into his own culture.

As a Gypsy Mikey is expected to be able to fight at a young age, when he fails to do this, he is beaten by his dad pretty much everyday. He then has to watch his mum get beaten when she tried to intervene. He is raped by his uncle repeatedly growing up. All in all he has a awful childhood. When he finally becomes a teenager, he becomes more alienated in the Gypsy community when he discovers he is gay.

Any child abuse story yo
May 27, 2012 Seth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what kind of crack gadje are smoking when they say this book breaks stereotypes, but it must be a pretty powerful kind because this book does nothing more than take stereotypes and pound them repeatedly into the reader's head. It uses words like "all, most, never, always" over and over, and wants the reader to know that Rroma (and not just his stupid should-be blakbolime family) steal, scam, physically abuse, oppress and more. And then has the audacity to bash the Irish Travelers an ...more
Nov 05, 2011 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I jumped at the opportunity to review "Mikey Walsh's" (the author uses a pseudonym) book as I am researching the Romany culture for a work of my own. There are few memoirs about the Romany Gypsies, and this is a first-hand look at their life in modern times.

Mikey starts his tale with his wedding day, looking back on his life up until that moment. He recounts his father's bullying ways as he wants to make his son into a great bare-knuckle boxer like so many of the other men in the family. He reco
I. Merey
Jan 13, 2013 I. Merey rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, 2013
Mikey Walsh is a Gypsy boy born to a father who wants a fearsome bare-knuckle boxer as his first-born son. Mikey is sensitive, he's love-starved, he's eager-to-please, but he is not a fighter. He spends the first fifteen years of his life getting regular and horrific beatings, his father's attempts to toughen him up. He watches his mother regularly get beaten to a pulp--he is sexually abused by his uncle--and further along, he discovers he's gay, which is hard enough in any world, but in the hyp ...more
Nov 04, 2011 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amazon-vine
I’ve long been fascinated with the Roma (or Gypsies, as Walsh more commonly refers to them), and was extremely excited to read this book --the only other Roma book I’ve read is Isabel Fonseca’s Bury Me Standing: the Gypsies and Their Journey, which focused largely on the Roma in Eastern Europe. Walsh, by contrast, grew up in England – and, unlike the grinding poverty throughout Fonseca’s book, Wash insists that Gypsies are not generally poor.

Reading this book, though, I thought of it less and l
Nov 09, 2011 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to give this book 3 1/2 stars, really, but I guess it tends slightly to the lower side of that.

Mikey Walsh has an amazing story to tell of his childhood among an English Roma family. His story is full of colorful characters, adventures, and horrific physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. It was fascinating to me to read an insider's view of a lifestyle so very different from my own. I very much enjoyed reading the book.

But there were also some serious flaws. I think the worst of these is
Sep 20, 2012 Gábor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a disturbing book. The author offers a very uncomplimentary view into the life of Gypsy families. Constant violence, beating of spouses and children. Daily drunkenness of males, with beating up each other outside the home too. Hopefully just as an exception, the author was being regularly raped by one of his uncles. Children are indoctrinated regularly to hate 'Gorgias' (non-Gypsies), and sent to school only for a few years (or not at all) to avoid tainting them(?). Males earn their inco ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Jansen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've had a fascination with gypsy culture for years, especially because my mother believes we may be descended from them on her side. (She has a romantic view of our family tree.) Finding anything to read about gypsies has been tough, though. Until now.

Mikey Walsh takes us into his startlingly violent and tradition-driven life. From his earliest memories of realizing he wasn't going to be the prize fighter his father envisioned to his first gay love with a gorgia (non-gypsy) man and all the hea
Nov 10, 2011 Therese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultures, non-fiction
Wow! I suppose this book could easily just be looped in with the many horrifying child-abuse stories that run rampant off grocery store shelves, but this one is particularly interesting as it's about a culture that I knew nothing of, but always wanted to. It's true there are many bits of this book that kept me up at night, but it's also a book that was impossible to put down and had me racing onto the next chapter to see what would happen next to Mikey. A word to the sensitive in disposition, th ...more
May 30, 2013 Tracey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was brilliantly written and very gripping.

Then I found out it's possibly fiction, and we have all been fooled.

Read this:

It's the blog of one of Mikey's ex-boyfriends, one who would be portrayed in a negative light in the sequel, "Gypsy Boy on the Run." He points out the falsehoods in both books. In particular, look at part 7.

Now, I have to add the disclaimer that I don't know for sure what the real truth is, and I don't know either the
Sabrina Rutter
Jun 18, 2010 Sabrina Rutter rated it it was amazing
Mikey's birth was his father's dream come true! A son to carry on the family legacy of tough bare nuckle fighting Romany gypsy males. From day one his father began the task of preparing Mikey for the life of a fighter by placing a gold necklace with gold boxing gloves around his new born son's neck. Mikey however didn't match his tough, sadistic father's ideals, and soon his young life was one torment after another.

As if suffering from daily beatings from his father, and run of the mill bullies
Susan Campbell
Aug 29, 2013 Susan Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the physical and sexual abuse rather shocking to read. The children trapped inside such a horrible community. I was pleased he got away, he was one of the lucky ones!
Mar 17, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Grade = 88% - B

I found a stack of British magazines on the Arts, Culture, Fashion scenes at a thrift shop recently, and they introduced me to quite a few books and movies that I would otherwise not have come across, plus a large number of London West End plays that I had seen.

The book that most interested me was Gypsy Boy on the Run by Mikey Walsh (a name taken from a character in Goonies). He had to keep his name secret, as he was under a death threat from his father and other members of his
Martin Lewis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Warren Rochelle
I found this book this summer when I was in London. It was my last day and I found myself browsing in a bookstore--Waterstone's, I think--on Piccadilly, down the street from the tube station. I needed a book to read on the plane home. Gypsy Boy looked liked it might make a 7-8 hour flight.

I don't know a lot about Gypsies (and I thought Roma was the now-preferred term, but Walsh uses Gypsy throughout the memoir), other than what I have picked up via popular culture. As I write this, I am remember
Neil Mach


I have Roma blood running in my family and through my veins, so thought I should read this. It is an anguished story and part of it [though nothing so bad, I'm pleased to say, ever happened to me] resonated with my experiences in a personal and emotional way. Certainly, the requirement to be physically strong and and punchy was something I experienced as a lad. Also my father hated the I idea that I might grow up into a “poof” [his words.]

This story is often humourless and gloomy ... and remind
Aug 06, 2013 martin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book......once I ignored the publisher's blurb and the "non-fiction" tag. It may well be based on a true story but it's had a Hollywood style treatment so the emphasis is really now on "story" rather than "true"! Even allowing for the tinted spectacles of any autobiography, this is just a bit too imaginative to be convincing.

The characters can be fun .. and funny in their often cheerful scofflaw ways. Aunt Minnie's periodic shopping trips in her ankle length coat are my
Susan Nadathur
Mikey Walsh's story is definitely a page-turner. It's intriguing, but at the same time, disturbing. While the back cover text promises access into the secret life of Romany Gypsies, I don’t think we get any truly unique insights into this supposedly secret world but rather a painfully vivid account of family violence at its most gruesome—an unhappy reality that can exist in any family, from any country, any ethnicity. Being raised by a man who is violent and a woman who is powerless is a sad rea ...more
Feb 25, 2012 Carol rated it liked it
I liked the idea of learning about the Gypsy-Roma culture firsthand.The fact that Mikey was gay added an interesting twist. What I feel I learned was what a horrible upbringing Mikey had with a physically abusive father, a sexually abusive uncle and an abused mother. He wasn't the "man" his father wanted him to be, was an unsuccessful bare knuckle boxer and didn't live up to the family legacy for which he was continually punished from an early age.
He had no resources from which to seek help and
Callie Craighead
"You can take the boy away from the Gypsies, but you can't take the Gypsy out of the boy."

An absolutely flawless book describing the tragic life of a young modern day gypsy. I never knew much about gypsies, but after reading this I am fascinated with the legacy of their culture, and just how deep their roots run.

The plot of the main character not fitting in to the gypsy lifestyle that was forced upon him was well played out. It started out not so bad and you thought maybe he could make it (when
Apr 23, 2014 Richard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-15, queer
I really liked the first half of this book a lot, but I felt that it lost focus and became a bit too repetitive. The author's mournful Eeyore tone didn't help the audiobook experience, although his true emotion did show through several times. I never lost sympathy for Mikey as a terribly abused child, but my patience was tested a bit by Mikey Walsh the reader.

The ending seemed especially rushed and rather vague.

I don't regret reading (or rather listening to) this one - although it has cured me o
Aug 11, 2013 Gail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I ordered this book without knowing what it was even about. From the beginning I wasn't able to get enough. It gives a dark look into a culture that many don't know anything about. As for what happened to Micky that could happen anywhere. How everything went unnoticed is shocking to me and how no one really attempted to help this young boy for everything his father did to him. But when he thought he finally found love from his uncle to only be betrayed by that uncle was crushing to me. What was ...more
The author obviously had a tortured childhood and adolescence and I hope that writing this book has helped him.

I found the book hard to read because the negative portrayal of the gypsy/Roma culture was so one-dimensional that I gained no insight into the complexities that must exist. I felt increasingly uncomfortable in this imbalance - would there be no redeeming features? Well, no - and I was relieved to get to the end.

The book is primarily about how the author coped in an abusive family wit
Amanda Zirn
Apr 10, 2012 Amanda Zirn rated it really liked it
Wow! I usually don't read books like this but this memoir was amazing. Despite how raw and detailed it was at times, it truly gave you an inside look at how hard life can be for a child who is struggling with their orientation, especially in a culture that does not accept it at all. I found this story extremely shocking at times and often found myself reading with my hand covering my mouth in pure shock. Through the abuse and intense stories, you create a strong bond with the author that can onl ...more
Amy Raffensperger
May 16, 2012 Amy Raffensperger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although some current reality programs claim to show the "hidden world of Gypsies", this book gives the real, far from glamorous life of real Gypsies. Mikey Walsh had the misfortune to be born into a family of "Gypsy Royalty", in which he was expected to continue his father's legacy of bare knuckle fighting. At his birth his father gave him a necklace with gold boxing gloves, and started his training at the age of four by teaching him to "take a punch". Walsh details the horrifying abuse he and ...more
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Mikey Walsh: Writer & author of that 'Gypsy Boy' Book series.
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