I have been waiting to do this book review, in part because I am hoping to reread the book; however, in the light of recent current events in Paris, I want to write about Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey by Isabel Fonesca now.
The book’s title comes from a moment in the book when a Roma states that he wants to be buried standing because he has spent his life on his knees. This reference is to how the Roma Nation, a people with no real home, have suffered the discrimination and oppression no matter where they live.
The book does a very good job, in my opinion, of starting to speak for a people who so seldom can speak for themselves. It explains many of the traditions, some of the culture, and a bit of the fear of outsiders.
I read this book when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova. At the time, I had several Roma students at my school. Across the board, I was told that they were unintelligent, unmanageable, and unruly. Personally, I found them to be hard work, smart, children who were slow to trust but quick to smile. They walked to school from a village—about 45 minutes each way. To my knowledge, they were the only children who went that far to attend school.
And, I don’t want to leave the impression that Roma are only oppressed in Eastern Europe or Europe. Just look at the English language: gypsy. Gypsy is the other (somewhat derogative) name for the Roma. The word gypsy brings a clear idea to people’s mind. I am pretty sure that I dressed up as one for Halloween in third grade. But, even clearer, we have the phrase “to be gyped“—or to be ripped off. Clearly, this implies that the Roma are thieves—a common held myth, a sometime reality (like some Americans are criminals), and something addressed in the book.
I hope to read it again and I hope you add it to your reading list as well.