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The Gypsies

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  407 ratings  ·  41 reviews
At the age of twelve, Jan Yoors ran away from his privileged, cultured Belgian family and home to join a wandering band, a kumpania, of Gypsies. For ten years, he lived as one of them, traveled with them from country to country, shared both their pleasures and their hardships--and came to know them as no one, no outsider, ever has. Here, in this firsthand and highly person ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 1st 1987 by Waveland Pr Inc (first published 1967)
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4.18  · 
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 ·  407 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing

I first learned of the existence of this extraordinarily fascinating book by Jan Yoors when I was reading Fonseca's book about gypsies (Roma), "Bury me Standing". Published in 1967, this book is available from on-line second-hand stores.

Sometime in between the 2 world wars, Jan Yoor, a young Belgian teenager, did something very unusual. He ran away with the gypsies. He joined a group ('kumpania') of Roma camping near to his home, and was eventually adopted by them. His under
If you are trying to understand how gypsies think, reason and behave this is one book I can recommend, but I learned that there are gypsies and then there are gypsies. There are those that are scarcely nomadic any more - the Gitanos of Spain and France,the Sinti of Germany and the Rudari of Romania! The Rom that are dispersed around the world may be split up into four main tribes: the Lowara, the Tshurara, the Kalderasha and the Matchyaya. They differ in appearance, temperament, occupations, lan ...more
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-rom
If the author wanted to dispel gypsy stereotypes, he sure as hell did not do a good job. If you take gypsy stereotypes and take out the more extreme once like actual witchcraft and sexual promiscuity, you are pretty much left with the image the author presents of these Lovarra.
And even though the book is called "The gypsies" the author makes it pretty clear early on that he is not interested in any gypsies that live sedentary of seminomadic (like gitanoes, gypsies of England, Sinti and Rudari).
I have read one other book on the Gypsies - Australian Gypsies: Their Secret History - which is written in recent times through various interviews. The stereotype Gypsy is dispelled in both books but this one is far more personnel and embracing.
Yoors leaves home, with his parents permission, and joins a family of Gypsies with this book taking him through his teens and up to WWII. He explains there are various types of Gypsies, their customs, lifestyle and relationship with non-Gypsies. As margin
May 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"This book is written as a protest against oblivion, as a cry of love for this race of strangers who have lived among us for centuries and remained apart..."

With this poetic beginning, Jan Yoors tells us the story of his life as he left his family to join a new family among the Rom, more commonly called Gypsies.

For the most part, we gaje (non-Gypsies in their language) only know the most minimal stereotypes about this culture; fortunetelling women, swarthy bandana-wearing people in covered w
Shelly Cross
Sep 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Honestly, I enjoyed this book and learned a little about Romani customs, but a lot of the book seems completely unlikely . . . it is suppose to be the factual account of a boy who was taken in by a traveling group of Romani when he was 12 years old. You find out later that he had perfectly respectable, even well-off, parents, but they didn't really look for him or even make a fuss when he got back all those months later; then, were happy to let him go back whenever he wanted. In addition to that ...more
Lasher Lane
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing

I first found this book in the Seventies, on the bookshelves of Weiser's in NYC. I lent the paperback to a friend who never returned it because he fell in love with it, too. It is still my favorite and the most beautifully written book I've ever read. After reading it, I felt so sympathetic to their people/culture that I joined The Gypsy Lore Society, of which I am still a member. I'm glad the book is available in print again.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
I read this probably 30 years ago and was entranced by this unusual tale. One has to wonder what sort of parents would allow their son to run away with the Gypsies quite regularly, but when you read the book, you are glad that they did so. I cannot compare it to any other book I have ever read. This is an inside, fond but honest look at gypsy life as it existed then. Many years later, the author tried to find the gypsies he remembered, and that book was a much sadder portrayal, but also worth re ...more
Steve Kohn
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have to confess to not having read this book in over 40 years, when I was young and easily impressed, but it's a book I've never forgotten. It may have been the source of my own wanderlust (satisfied, fortunately, by the US Army).

Gypsies are universally scorned, often by people who never even met one. Reading this book taught me more than about Gypsies, but also the need to keep an open mind in the face of uninformed prejudices. (As if a Jew wouldn't know that.)

It doesn't hurt that the author
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Gypsies have always seemed romantic and mysterious to me in a sort of dark and otherworldly way. I never wanted to find out more, but I ended up reading this fascinating account of their lives for my book club. I'll admit that I did a lot of "skimming and scanning" because, as I said, I really didn't care much about this topic. However, I'm glad I spent the time I did, and if you are going to learn about gypsies, this book is IT! The author actually lived with them off and on for about 10 years ...more
Anastasia Riebs
As a person of Romany decent who has been trained in the traditions of my people, I can say with confidence that MUCH of the information in Jan Yoors "authoritive" text is inaccurate.

After being given a copy of The Gypsies, I was very angry at how my culture and people were represented... Some of the misinformation was laughable, like that of "The Gypsy King," which seemed to take on a lot of importance in this book; in reality, we are largely matriarchal in our power structure, so idea of our
Sabrina Rutter
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It took me a little bit to get used to the style of writing, and due to the foriegn names it made it sometimes impossible for me to always remember who was who. Admittedly I had thought of giving up on this book, but I'm happy to say I found myself unable to stop reading it! I suppose the dreamlike descriptions made it hard for me in the begining to attach to the people involved in the story, however as I read on I appriciated the dreamlike quality of the story.

This book gives a rare insight int
Apr 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
Update 7/31-09 I quit. I started reading other books. Maybe I'll finish this some day.. But for now, it's just not motivating me ..

UPDATE 6/11/09
I'm re-reading this now and it is a s-l-o-w read. I guess it seems a bit too intentionally instructive, if you know what I mean.. Like the author is wanting the reader to agree with him about the Gypsies: ('Aren't they cool, Wasn't it cool of me to run away with them? Don't they impress you with their cunning ways/lying and trickery? Aren't I cool for b
Kristi Marshae
Apr 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, race
unforgettable! this is an honest & firsthand account of a very troubled people. an amazing journey told beautifully.
Timothy Boyd
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow I read this and wanted to run off and be a gypsy. A very informative read on the early 1900's lifestyle of this interesting nomadic people. Highly recommended
Nathan Albright
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2019
This book is an insider account of a Dutch boy who, for reasons unknown perhaps even to himself, found himself drawn to wander along with a company of Gypsies several months of the year several times in the period just before the beginning of World War II.  Like many people who read this, I found the story told both powerful and troubling, powerful because it represents an insider look at gypsy society, with the internal divisions and the approach to the societies and their governments by gypsie ...more
Jan Priddy
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My husband Gary has read all Yoors’ books, and I had been meaning to read at least one from the Gajo who ran away from home at age twelve and lived with off and on with the Rom for many years before WWII. It is a beautiful, touching book, successful both as literary prose and as ethnography, though he holds back. If I were teaching anthropology this would be on my reading list.

By using the experiences of his life with the Rom, Yoors sheds light on the lies and truths about Gypsy life. He rememb
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved this - the author is an excellent writer, and the people he describes are so interesting. My favorite parts are the gypsy sayings and descriptions of their culture. It's not always one I agree with (especially the 2nd class citizen treatment of women), but it is admirable in its devotion to life, family, and adventure.
Clayton Brannon
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A really insightful look at the life of the Gypsies of Europe in the 20s and 30s when Jan Yoors lived with them for 10 years starting at the age of 12 when he ran away from home. He is truly a remarkable writer with a unique ability to make the people he talks about come alive as few authors can. I have often wondered about the Gypsies and this book answer so many questions.
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Powerful book. You don’t end up liking the gypsies more, you just have an insight on what is their understanding of the world. I find it also extremely useful to get to know what was the gypsies’ perspective on the Second World War. A must read!
Lis Darner
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to learn more about the gypsy culture and this book helped me do that. Very interesting stories of living within a kumpania in 1930s and 1940s Europe.
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an amazing book, one I couldn't put down. It is beautifully, lyrically written, and really does convey, not just in events told as stories, but but truly does convey a mood (Yoor's word), or essence, of the life of the Rom. This flowing nature of their live back into time immemorial (evidently it's not really known when the Rom began and there is evidence stretching back into ancient times) and flowing into the future, no matter what the world around them turns into and passes through.
Jeremy Brooks
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. I picked this up as a research project on Rom culture, but was pulled into it as not only a rare insight into their lives but also as a good story. Yoors is a great writer and storyteller, and provides a sympathetic and unapologetic look at gypsy culture: why they are perceived by the non-Rom as they are, why they do the things they do to build and maintain those perceptions. Eye-opening.
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-books-ever
Everything you know about gypsies is a lie, mostly told by them to keep us away...

The most beautiful tale of the most beautiful people. More so than any society I have heard of, I think these humble nomads have it right.

I would love to find an equivalent tale involving Native Americans; a person who has been accepted into their society and can explain it in detail from their perspective.
Lisa Campbell
Mar 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to respectfully refer to Rom in writing
Recommended to Lisa by: my husband
This book gives wonderful insight into the life of the Rom. Written in late 1960s, Jan Yoors ran away from his Belgium home at age twelve to join the Gypsies. This book tells about his ten years amongst them. While today the term "gypsy" is looked at as a slur, Yoors writes with respect and candor. Helped tremendously in my research.
Oct 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book several times and given it to others. It is one of the most fascinating reads out there. Yoors account is unique, well-written, and difficult to put down. Not only does the reader learn a lot about the life, culture, and language of Roma people, but the story is absolutely wonderful. I'd love to see a movie made of this book, as well as its sequel, Crossings.
Dec 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
Read this ages ago, and am now re-reading it to maybe use with a class...
Still debating whether it isn't too "grown-up" for my non-native English students, in terms of the language. An amazing book though, which fascinated me when I first read it at age 17 or 18... and did not disappoint on a second reading.
David Ward
The Gypsies by Jan Yoors (Simon & Shuster 1967) (910.03). This is a first-person account of a Belgian boy who ran off to join the gypsies as a youngster. He spent ten years traveling with them; this is his account of the culture, rituals, and lifestyle of this nomadic peoples. My rating: 7/10, finished 2007.
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
THis is everything you want to know about the travellers written by someone who lived with them (of free choice) for 10 years. Very positive and informative but written in an engaging way. You'll love it!
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Jan Yoors was born to a cultured, liberal family of artists, but at the age of twelve he ran off with a Gypsy tribe and lived with the kumpania on and off for the next ten years. During World War II, Yoors worked with the Allies to help the Gypsies who were being systematically exterminated. He was captured twice and imprisoned until the end of the war.

In 1950 Yoors settled in New York City, where
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