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Thursday, February 02, 2006

cover of Bury Me Standing

This book took me months to read -- because it is the story of a people who have always been marginalized, denounced, mistreated... Never have they had a place to call home. No one is sure where they came from, and for as long as anyone can remember and any records show, their history has been one of suffering at the hands of others. But as a whole, they are a people who are good at everything - they are enterprising, assertive, tell wonderful stories, make the best of situations, take care of family. Hope is to be found in the fact that despite their past, they are still surviving and even thriving as many groups of people - and even beginning to come together under one name.

The Gypsies are a people who have been enslaved, treated as non-people in many ways, viciously treated and murdered during the Holocaust, and used as a common enemy between other divided peoples -- especially after the velvet curtain fell in 1989 in Eastern Europe. Their memories often only go back as far as the oldest person in their families or clan and no further. Fonseca posits the idea this is because their past is so painful, that it does them little good to remember it. Because of the past that is remembered in this book, there is much pain to be seen, so I will probably never read this book again.

Roma (the name they are beginning to unite under, depsite all the intricacies of their family relations) don't fit into any normal boxes. Humans love to classify 'us' vs 'them', and with some people that comes very easily. Roma have strict rituals about the way things are done, who may do what tasks, how people are valued, and what is clean & unclean. They are known for their traveling and nomadic lifestyle, so home to them is not so much where they are but who they are with. Without family, you are lost.

There is also an attitude of not caring what others think, which makes them intimidating to societies where it is important to please those around you and to have a certain appearance or act certain ways. This is not to say that Roma don't value anyone's opinion -- it is important to stay healthily connected to your family and to respect those in authority and to follow the rituals and rules. We have much to learn from them - that sometimes being unashamedly oneself is dangerous but the only honest way to live. How often do we change our appearance or actions or words to fit in? Be challenged to live honestly!

Title:Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and their Journey
Author: Isabel Fonseca
Date published:1995
Genre: History, Gypsies
Number of pages:305
Notes: Recommended by and borrowed from Jude


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