Nottingham’s independent bookshop | 14a Long Row, Nottingham NG1 2DH | 0115 8373097

Book Review

We are the Romani People by Ian Hancock (University of Hertfordshire, £9.99)

Five Leaves has a Roma and Traveller section. I’ve written elsewhere (http://fiveleavespublications.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/five-leaves-and-traveller-books.html) about why we have the section, mentioning this book. And certainly if you want to read one book about Romanies this should be it. Ian Hancock is himself a Romani and a professor of linguistics at the University of Texas, his area being Romani linguistics. Indeed, this book has an interesting section on the Romani language. Though it is not covered in the book, Nottinghamshire has a particularly interesting Romani story. So much so that a few years ago some men in Newark decided to publish a dictionary of “Newarkese”, featuring a pile of words they thought were unique to the town. As far as I know their dictionary never appeared, but every single one of their reported “Newark” words was a standard Anglo-Romani word like jukel (dog) or yog (fire). And it is that town I first visited in 1978 or 79 which had signs, which would now be illegal, in pub windows saying No Dogs, No Gypsies.
Hancock traces Romani roots back to India, the story of the Romani journey to Britain, and the history of prejudice against Romani people, including, worst of all, the Porrajmos (“the devouring”), the Holocaust. More positively, there is a chapter about famous Romanies, including, for example, the actor Bob Hoskins, the singer David Essex and, on his mother’s side, Charlie Chaplin. This book was published in 2002, any later edition would surely have included Eric Cantona, a French Manouche (Roma). The book is particularly strong at images, usually not positive, of “Gypsies”. A later edition would have no problem adding front covers from the Daily Express as an example of prejudice. We Are the Romani people includes discussion points suitable for secondary school use.

Ross Bradshaw

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *