Prejudice is one of the themes of LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY. When Lizzie befriends Elijah she is horrified by the prejudice her hosts show towards the gypsies. Prejudice against the traveling people exists throughout Europe today and is nothing new — for centuries governments have passed laws to make the traveling life difficult. Hitler’s government determined that the Roma were a lesser form of human being and murdered tens of thousands of them. While we all know about the Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust, this tragic piece of Roma history is not so well known.
RABBIT STEW AND A PENNY OR TWO: A GYPSY FAMILY’S HARD TIMES AND HAPPY TIMES ON THE ROAD IN THE 1950s by Maggie Smith Bendell was the starting point in my research. After reading the book I became friends with Maggie and she was an early reader of Lizzie, offering advice and encouragement. I was lucky enough to meet Maggie in 2015 and was treated to a tour of her house and her three vardoes. Maggie is an indomitable spirit, fighting bureaucracy for the rights of her people, helping the police resolve disputes, and promoting the Gypsy/Traveler/Roma culture. The Queen awarded her the BEM honor and I am proud to know her (Maggie not the Queen).
In my story there is a gulf of misunderstanding between the local people, Lizzie’s hosts, and the Gypsies. Lizzie’s attempts to bridge that gulf demand courage and cause her heartache. If you’d like to find out how, you’ll have to read LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY.
- RABBIT STEW AND A PENNY OR TWO: A GYPSY FAMILY’S HARD TIMES AND HAPPY TIMES ON THE ROAD IN THE 1950s by Maggie Smith Bendell, Little Brown Book Group, 2010. A memoir of Maggie’s life on the road with a glossary and recipes.
- Video of Appleby Horse Fair made by Gypsy children.
- Video of Appleby, Stowe and Lee Gap fairs set to the song “Little Dun Mare” sung by Nick Dow.
- Romany Heritage Facebook page.