Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh

The Romany, more commonly called Gypsies, have been a marginalized ethnic group in Europe for hundreds of years.  As such, they have been the subjects of stereotypes and suspicion, and their customs are generally little-known, as they tend to be distrustful of society outside their scattered communities.  This is the first autobiography I have read from a Romany.

Gypsy Boy is a tell-all memoir of a harsh childhood within the Romany community in England.  As the oldest son of a family known for their fighting prowess, Mikey Walsh was expected to follow the course of familial tradition.  Training began in early childhood and was far from easy, as his father was quite brutal in his son’s regimen and regularly beat him for failure.

Mikey also experienced sexual abuse from another relative and grew up largely unschooled.  After much deliberation, he left his extended community in his mid teens, found success and a degree of hard-won happiness, and worked in a non-Gypsy world that other members of his family could barely fathom.

Walsh writes very candidly about his childhood and its hardships, and expresses a strong pride in his background, lumps and all.  He also emphasizes his strong love for other members of his family, especially his mother and sister, who helped him keep his head up through the worst parts of childhood.

Gypsy Boy is along the manner of The Liars’ Club or The Glass Castle; I’ve read some comparisons to Running with Scissors as well.  If you’ve read any of these and liked them, you’ll probably like this book.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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