I have hesitated to write about this book for a very long time… Talking about a child relentlessly abused is the hardest thing to do.
Mikey Wash is a Gypsy boy, living in a closeted community. He barely knows world outside the caravan camp and people other than Gypsies. Since he can remember he has been beaten by his father every single day. He has been beaten because he could not fight like other Gypsy boys, he wet the bed or…he dared to live. When Mikey’s mother tries to defend him, she is beaten too. Father is not the only one that abuses Mikey, pedophile uncle makes child’s life even more miserable.
When Mikey realizes that he is gay he does not want to be a part of the community and keep secrets anymore. The only way is to escape…
I suppose that every racist and bigot would use The Gypsy Boy to support their arguments against Gypsies communities. Indeed, the book is pandering all the stereotypes regarding Gypsies: child and women abuse, lack of education, earning money in illegal way etc. In other words, the book focuses only on negative aspects of life in Gypsy community. Moreover, while Gypsies know very well what it means to be discriminated and rejected, they are racists themselves against Georgians and Irish Travelers. Nobody can deny that racism and discrimination against Gypsies do not exist and that they are not regarded as social outcasts. However, it is also true that Gypsies live as they please and do nothing to improve their conditions and make their children’s lives better.
Mikey’s story is heartbreaking and devastating. You attach to the boy very quickly, he makes you part of his small but terrifying world through honest and detailed description of what he went through. Cruelty of his father could not break him tough. He always was good, lovely and funny child. I was reading Gypsy Boy in the mornings on the way to work. Then, during a day I was unable to not focus on my job! I was thinking only about Mikey and what he was going through. I could not get rid of the picture of his father beating him every single day! Some people might ask why he did not escape earlier, why he stayed for so long. When you are a part of closed community, escaping is very hard. If you know only that small group of people, you do not know outside world, and you do not have place to go, your choices are very limited. And, his father made him believe he was nothing!
One might argue that Mikey’s father was violent because he was Gypsy and all Gypsies are the same. I would say that somebody is violent because he chooses to be this way. He beats his child or wife not because he is Gypsy but simply because he is evil. Even in so- called best families abuse and bullying happen. Somebody can be well- educated, having good job, but still can be violent toward others.
I am surprised that author did not try to make people understand Gypsy community better. He focused on violence issue only. I would like to read more about Gypsy history and the way they live. Author gave some insight into customs and traditions though. In my opinion, it is not enough.
Nevertheless, I think that it is important read because this is one of the few book about Gypsies. It is hard to find other books written from insider’s perspective. Moreover, even in academia you cannot find enough research on Gypsy community. As though nobody thinks Gypsies are worth to write about them…