Warren Rochelle's Reviews > Gypsy Boy

Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh
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Aug 20, 2011

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Read in June, 2011

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 remembering a scene from the Andy Griffith Show, of all things, when Gypsies passed through Mayberry and had convinced the locals that they could predict the weather (done by having a radio that picked up long-range forecasts--why this was not available to Mayberry folk remains a mystery). These Gypsies were the stereotype: hoop ear rings, olive skin, colorful clothes, bandannas, and tambourines and they sang a song about the Gypsies being wild and free every time any outsider showed up.

So much for the mythology of popular culture and stereotypes. Mikey Walsh was born into a Romany Gypsy family in England and grew up in an insular, closeted world that had little connection to the greater non-Gypsy or Gorgia community. Rather the caravan was Mikey's world--and this world, as he tells it in this frank and sometimes shocking memoir, has a "vibrant and loyal culture," and yet it is a culture that hides abuse, taught him how to commit fraud, and it is a culture that apparently has no place at all for a gay boy.

Mikey Walsh obviously survived and escaped and today has a partner to whom he is married. His uncle, who sexually abused him for years as a child, was finally caught. Mikey's father bullied his family for years--which only ended when a younger brother finally stood up to the man. Mikey had been his father's punching bag. Mikey learned how to read, got the education he missed growing up and he is now bearing witness, even though as he says, "You can take the boy away from the Gypsies, but you can't take the Gypsy out of the boy."

A powerful book.
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