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Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,580 Ratings  ·  339 Reviews
Isabel Fonseca describes the four years she spent with Gypsies from Albania to Poland, listening to their stories, deciphering their taboos, and befriending their matriarchs, activists, and child prostitutes. A masterful work of personal reportage, this volume is also a vibrant portrait of a mysterious people and an essential document of a disappearing culture. 50 photos.
Paperback, 322 pages
Published October 29th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Mar 09, 2013 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in Gypsies / other cultures
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: hooked by the title & cover
There’s always been a mystique surrounding Gypsies, this book takes a good stab at separating truth from fiction. Trust me; the real story is every bit as fascinating as the folklore. This is a great introduction to their culture & history; educational, shocking, often heartbreaking and highly readable.
By living amongst them, Isabel Fonseca was able to do what few outsiders have accomplished, provide a glimpse into the way of life of a highly secretive people. Observations on their supersti
For a thousand years the Gypsies wandered. First, out of India into the Caucasus and Armenia—the mountainous lands between the Black and Caspian Seas. Then onto the Anatolian steppes, the land now called Turkey but once part of the vast Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire. With the coming of the Seljuk Turks and the Ottoman Empire, many more moved north across Bosporus into Europe to wander among the peoples of the Balkans and even further north and west. Some 12 million Gypsies (or Roma) now live i ...more
Mar 20, 2015 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
It is nearly eleven years since I read this astonishing portrait of a people. My friend Roger not only endorsed the book but gave me his copy (I have since acquired my own) and I was riveted with its anecdotes and depositions; I recall that I was engrossed with such at the airport when I first met Lena, my best friend's wife. I related a story in the book where god created a book of laws and insights which would gurantee the success of the Roma. Unfortunately, God printed the text on cabbage lea ...more
Before I read Bury Me Standing, I was devoted solely to fiction. My experience with non-fiction was limited to very dry histories that communicated NO sense of the people or circumstances involved. I don't know why I bought Bury Me Standing at the book shop of the Holocaust Museum in D.C., but I did, and it changed me in several regards.

First, I gained a much broader understanding of what the Holocaust meant and means. The Roma/Gypsy population was, percentage-wise, as or more significantly dec
Oct 17, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it
The Rom are in the news again and that is never good for them. (I cannot bring myself to use the word Gypsy, although Fonseca does). The latest European country to find them enough of a nuisance for deportation is France. The title of Fonseca's book comes from a Rom proverb: "Bury me standing because I have lived on my knees." Yet Fonseca's Rom are anything but kneeling. Although the caravans appear to be gone, victims of industrialization and modernization, much of it compulsory, most maintain ...more
This book was a great example of book design/ marketing at work. I came upon it wandering through Barnes and Noble (I think), and the cover just jumped out at me. Combined with a very catchy title, it was pretty hard to resist. It helped that I knew absolutely nothing about the subject matter, so there was some added interest there.

Bury Me Standing is a combination of an anthropological study and a history, weighted more heavily towards the former. The bulk of the text is a chronicle of Fonseca’
Tom Mayer
Jun 27, 2007 Tom Mayer rated it liked it
Recommends it for: everyone interested in Gypsies or Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain
Finding my way to this after finishing Colum McCann's excellent new novel, ZOLI, I learned a great deal about Gypsy culture and the roots of ethnic persecution in Eastern Europe. Fonseca has a supple and engaging voice. She tells a personal story, remaining stoic despite the outrageously alien landscape she finds herself trying to navigate. More importantly, she has the anthropological and sociological chops to explore the issue on a more theoretical and intellectual level than your everyday jou ...more
Dawn Allbee
Sep 04, 2010 Dawn Allbee rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in learning about different cultures
Shelves: non-fiction
My personal philosophy of late has been: Ignorance leads to Fear, which leads to Hate that often ends in violence and/or injustice. This philosophy is the drive behind my desire for cultural knowledge of all types.

Often when I read about Gypsies or hear about them it is in a negative context. Therefore, I got this book to learn more about their culture. Wow! It really was an eye opener! I read this book many years ago. However, I thought it important to post about this book considering what is g
Jul 31, 2009 Linda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Horrific, horrible, terrible. Perpetuates the WORST stereotypes of "gypsies" under the guise of spreading knowledge about the Roma minority. Lord save us from the friends of the colored people...

This - above - was my original review of this book. Later I received a comment on my review to which I responded. It's true that because of my utter distaste for the book, I'd been direct, but brief. In my answer to the comment, I elaborated further. Now, having seen so many positive reviews of the book
Aug 11, 2011 Amélie rated it really liked it
Pas pour m'embarquer dans des généralisations auxquelles je crois pas complètement de toute façon, mais : quand j'étais en France cet hiver & ce printemps, j'ai été pas mal abasourdie de voir qu'il y avait beaucoup de gens autour de moi qui, sans être d'accord avec la forme qu'avait prise la toute nouvelle politique sarkozyste (inventons des adjectifs, tant qu'à y être) d'expulsion des Roms, n'en questionnaient pas tout à fait le fond. Comme quoi les Gitans c'est vrai que c'était tous des pa ...more
Sara W
Aug 03, 2008 Sara W rated it liked it
Well, it took me awhile, but I finally finished this book. Each chapter could stand on its own which is why I kept jumping in and out of this book over the past months. It was pretty good. Some of the writing annoyed me at the beginning, but I can't remember specifically why since I read those chapters so long ago. I didn't expect the book to be focused so much on the author and her specific experiences with gypsies - I expected (and wanted) more about the history and current state of gypsies in ...more
Will Ransohoff
Apr 15, 2015 Will Ransohoff rated it it was ok
I'm glad that I read this book, because there is not a lot of information available about the Roma or their culture. But while this was a well-researched chronicle of their history, it was also dry, plodding, and not very well-written in spite of the myriad fascinating people and situations that it described. The middle hundred pages or so could easily have been removed without taking much away from the book, and I really had to force myself to finish it.

So while it was interesting and (I think)
In the late 1990s, I visited the Czech Republic with my wife and then young daughter. When we were in a small town near to Teplice, two men driving an old fashioned Škoda saloon car first yelled something that sounded abusive, and then attempted to run over my wife and 3 year old daughter. Almost certainly the reason for this cowardly attempt to injure the womenfolk in my family was that my wife is Indian. And, many Indians look like gypsies, Roma, or Sinti.

Fonseca's book, "Bury Me Standing" dea
Oct 05, 2012 Sherry rated it it was ok
Shelves: awc
This book is about the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and their situation in the modern world. Well, "modern" being the early to mid-nineties.

Gypsies were more of a Halloween costume than a real culture or group of people as far as I was concerned before I moved to Europe. Upon moving to Europe, I discovered very early -- immediately, in fact -- that Gypsies are indeed real and almost universally loathed. Even the most open-minded people I knew had nothing but horrible things to say about the Gypsie
Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey ought to be required reading for anyone who believes they know a thing or two about European history. As it turns out (speaking from personal experience), one might even possess an advanced degree in the subject and still need educating about the history of this intriguing European population. And this, to a large degree, is Isabel Fonseca's point - the Roma (or Gypsies), historically-speaking represent a practically invisible group of people, even ...more
Oct 08, 2011 Orin rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
Academic. Boring. Full of characters, yet having no character. My main fault with this book is that it was written by the author. Really really overwritten. That, and it appears to now be the most available general interest book on gypsies out there, which is regrettable.
Sabrina Rutter
The information in this book is absolutely phenomenal. Fonseca delves deep into the history of gypsies, and their current situations (as of the mid to late 90's) with their struggles in human rights violations, and their struggle to become recognised as a people. She lays bare their vulnerabilities, how it has brought an end to their nomadic way of life, cost some their language, and many their loss of life. The message is clear, gypsies are, and have always been one of the most persecuted peopl ...more
Aug 29, 2009 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At some point in life, you stop being surprised. I mean, you still occasionally act surprised -- but it's mostly just for fun, because you've heard it all before. And then you're sitting around sipping wine out on the deck, and you get the surprise of the century: your cool, liberal, multicultural friend passionately declares that "gypsy culture has no merit whatsoever, and if it got wiped off the face of the earth tomorrow it would be no loss to humanity." I almost passed out. And so an otherwi ...more
Aug 10, 2007 Ariel rated it liked it
This was one successful random pickup at the library. I saw the cover and thought "I don't really know anything about gypsies" so I looked at the back and it had praise from Said, so I thought what the hell.

The author has this really interesting combination between personal narrative, somewhat like travel writing and an anthropological approach.

Most interesting to me was her analasis of Romani group memory, or lack there of, that she attributes to a survival seize the day mentality. Although t
May 29, 2007 Andrea rated it liked it
Although I learned a lot about gypsies (since I knew next to nothing) this book left a great deal to be desired. My book group wasn't happy that I chose this book for last month's book group discussion - we felt this author had an amazing topic to bring to an interested audience but just didn't deliver. We were impressed with her travels and that she lived with a gyspy family but her writing seemed torpid to us. I know several of my friends outside of my book group loved this book so it came wit ...more
Dec 25, 2014 lavinia rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-culture, history
This book was absolutely incredible. I wanted to read it to open my mind. As always, the brain is easy to train to understand, but the heart and feelings not so much. I've been trying to be more considerate of these people's destiny and traditions, but this was the first book that really touched something in me and made me completely reconsider, not just rationally, but by the heart, what I should think and feel about the Romani.

The structure of the book is very easy to follow and I've identifie
Fonseca spent some time in eastern Europe visiting and talking to Roma people about their traditions and way of life. Here she presents what she saw and learned and also gives a brief history of the Roma. This was fascinating and I learnt a lot. Well-written and informative.
Apr 26, 2015 Ruth rated it it was amazing
I learned heaps from Ms.Fonseca's book. I initially harbored a romantic image of the gypsy as a free spirited roaming people, full of mischief, passion and power. People have often called me a gypsy because of my previous traveling lifestyle and I enjoyed the label.

Hearing about women's position in gypsy society blew my mind. They are married as young teens and kept as servants to their mother-in-laws and men until their own children grow and they finally get to be the boss. They are constraine
Sep 16, 2011 Yichen rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic, history
In this, an account in person and history, at once simultaneous and ambivalent, Fonseca presents the paradox of Gypsies.

My personal reaction through the progression of the book has been polite interest, vague indignation, horror, and pitying despair, and finally slightly-more-informed-than-before indifference. The polite interest was piqued by charming and disarming descriptions of familial ties. The middle negative feelings akin to pity brought on by the presentation of Gypsies' long, largely
Jan 28, 2009 Lanea rated it really liked it
This was another slow read for me because I needed to take the misery in smaller doses. Roma and Sinti continue to face blindingly terrible discrimination throughout Europe. I don't think discrimination is even the word for it: discrimination alone doesn't seem quite strong enough to burn entire Rom communities out of their villages.

Fonseca traveled amidst and around Rom and Sinti communities in Europe in the early 1990s, a time when the constraints of Eastern-European dictatorships were fallin
Mar 10, 2011 Sharlene rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
Even after finishing this book, I’m not entirely sure why it is titled Bury Me Standing. I don’t recall a mention of this phrase in the book, nor about funerals. Maybe it was something I skipped over or misread? (If you know what the title refers to, please let me know.)

Isabel Fonseca (otherwise known as Martin Amis’ wife) opens this journey into the lives of Gypsies with the story of Papusza, who was the most famous Romany poet, but whose death in 1987 went unnoticed. Already this beginning pre
Jul 14, 2007 Erin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: thinking people
really interesting book. you learn as much about the author as the subjects, which becomes more obvious in an ethnography about a marginalized group.

i picked up this book as a development economist, but the questions about the meanings of "identity," "history," "other" and "progress" are important in much more varied settings. persecution is traced through what can be discovered of a long past, but is most vivid in the descriptions of nazi and communist methods of dealing with the "gypsy plague
Jan 27, 2013 Crystal rated it really liked it
This is an incredibly dark read. I don't know what I was expecting to get from this book, but it both surpassed my expectations and disappointed me-which I don't fault the author. It is extremely informative, very well written, interesting and (I think) honest. My major disappointment with this book is that I see no light side of the gypsies; it's a grueling collection of prejudice, poverty, injustice, and heartbreaking misunderstanding. But then you see those small glimpses of laughing and joki ...more
May 03, 2015 Wendy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book consists of accounts of the author's research among various Romany communities in Eastern Europe, interspersed with historical and cultural background about the Romany people. The book offers a wealth of information, and I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the Romany. My one dissatisfaction with the book is that it is a little disjointed - the narrative skips from country to country and forward and back in time, and the effect sometimes feels more like a mosaic of sn ...more
Luanne Castle
Oct 04, 2015 Luanne Castle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I didn't know anything about the "gypsy" people, other than the brief mentions in history class and their supposed appearance in fiction and movies, when I read this book. To really see more of their community was eye-opening, although I did recognize it was written by an outsider. This was one of those once-every-few-years books that possessed me for quite some time.
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The Armchair Trav...: * Bury Me Standing - discussion 7 9 Apr 26, 2015 12:56PM  
Gypsies in Europe 4 56 Jun 11, 2012 09:04AM  
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Fonseca studied on Columbia and Oxford.

Writes for many newspapers and magazines, The Independent, Vogue, The Nation, The Wall Street Journal.

For four years, she has been living with the Gypsies from Albany to Poland.

Currently lives in London with her husband Martin Amis and their two daughters.
More about Isabel Fonseca...

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“On the whole, lying is a cheerful affair. Embellishments are intended to give pleasure. People long to tell you what they imagine you want to hear. They want to amuse you; they want to amuse themselves; they want to show you a good time. This is beyond hospitality. This is art.” 17 likes
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