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Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  3,397 ratings  ·  443 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, 336 pages
Published 1995 by Vintage
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Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm really into subcultures and history and this was a really fascinating glimpse into a culture I knew practically nothing about: The Romani. This book is fabulously researched and intermixes the current world of this formerly nomadic people with their ancient, ancient history. Upshot: It's not a 100% fun read, but it is mind-opening. Poverty, prejudice, even acts of massacre are enmeshed in their history. It was almost startling to read about all this racism and endemic poverty in Europe, a co ...more
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
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jan 23, 2013 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 superstition
Dec 03, 2011 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 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’
Sep 04, 2010 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
Tom Mayer
Jun 27, 2007 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
Nov 19, 2007 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
Between 1991 and 1995, Isabel Fonseca journeyed among the Roma through Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland & Germany, among other places. Unusually, she manages to gain the trust of many of these people, and was accepted into their lives - although American, and have to communicate mostly through a translator.

The stories she recounts here are fascinating ones. Sad and depressing, without doubt, the future of the Gypsies looks pretty bleak. With a lack of willingness to improve their own lives, g
Sep 11, 2012 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
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
Sara W
Feb 22, 2008 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
Sep 27, 2014 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)
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
Caidyn (he/him/his)
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Caidyn (he/him/his) by: Ashley Marie
I'm going to preface my review with this: I know next to nothing about the Roma people. Literally nothing besides the stereotypical stuff out there about them, stuff that really burgeons on stereotyping and, perhaps, racism in some cases.

While this book, like many reviewers pointed out, didn't really clear any stereotypes I came in with -- such as that they're exotic -- I found it extremely rich and informative. As I said, I came into this blind, just carrying with me things that I'd heard or s
Aug 10, 2007 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
Aug 30, 2010 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.
Jan 11, 2010 rated it liked it
The author takes the reader through her journey of living with and speaking with gypsies in different parts of Europe. An eyeopening book that dispelled many false notions I had about gypsies.
Jonathan Frederick Walz
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent. Highly recommenced.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
College reading is always boring for me 😪
Feb 09, 2015 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
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
DNF at 60 pages. This was a lot denser than I had expected. I didn’t understand the author’s motivations/qualifications for writing this book, which kept nagging at me. I didn’t like the chapter organization. I’m still interested in the topic, but not in this book.
Aug 29, 2009 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
Feb 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
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
May 29, 2007 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
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.
Mish Middelmann
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Painful, deeply disturbing expose of the systematic persecution of Europe's biggest minority. And refreshingly even handed and direct, focusing neither on blame nor recriminations, chronicling the 1500 year odyssey of the Roma people out of the Punjab and into East European slavery and a series of holocausts. She also records with rich detail and diversity their particular choices in response to a hostile world. Fonseca is able to capture what is wonderful about the various iterations of Roma cu ...more
Timothy Boyd
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it
I was looking for a more historical summary of the Gypsies but this book is more of a social study of modern Gypsy culture (modern for the time it was written). Not exactly what i was looking for but still an interesting read. Recommended
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Play Book Tag: [+ Horizons] Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey / Isabel Fonseca. 3 stars 1 9 Nov 04, 2019 06:54PM  
The Armchair Trav...: * Bury Me Standing - discussion 7 16 Apr 26, 2015 12:56PM  
Gypsies in Europe 4 57 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.

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