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BURY ME STANDING by Isabel Fonseca

BURY ME STANDING

The Gypsies and Their Journey

By Isabel Fonseca

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-40678-6
Publisher: Knopf

 A journalist's vivid study of Eastern Europe's Gypsies (the Roma) that explores the myths, customs, and actuality of Gypsy life while addressing the central question of Gypsy identity in the post-Holocaust 20th century. Partly because they do not have a written tradition of their own, Gypsies have not figured prominently in mainstream scholarly and journalistic writing. Here Fonseca aims to give them the attention they deserve. Bury Me Standing is actually several works in one: socio-anthropological fieldwork, journalism, oral history, and colorful narrative. Although the ordering of its parts is at times chaotic, the study's diversity is an asset; it provides captivating, intimate accounts of Gypsy customs and gender and social relations, as well as serious consideration of scholarly debates and issues concerning the ill treatment of Gypsies in European history (slavery, persecution, the Holocaust, contemporary injustices). Fonseca has a knack for linking insight to wit and observation, as in this comment on Gypsy dogs: ``All seem to be lame or one-eyed or stub-tailed, as if their main job wasn't to protect or to appear faithful but to make people feel better about their own shortcomings.'' But at the core of Fonseca's investigation lies her interest in the Gypsies' ``continual self- reinvention'' and their ``search for a positive identity'' to offset the reputation that burdens them in society. Some Gypsies have returned to their supposed Hindu roots. On the other hand, they have a strange reluctance to respond to the Holocaust (500,000 dead). If suppression of past Gypsy suffering continues, contends the author, their fate in the faltering democracies of Eastern Europe may be bleak. In the postCold War atmosphere of renewed nationalism and economic uncertainty, scapegoating is rampant. Fonseca's book comes at a crucial moment and could open an important discussion. (30 photos, not seen; 3 maps)