The Harmful History of ‘Gypsy’ in Bitch Magazine

Seriously, can you imagine any other racial slur titling a TV show in 2017? Luckily, the show, Gypsy, was cancelled the very day that Bitch Media published my essay, “The Harmful History of ‘Gypsy,'” but the casual use of this racial slur continues. So if you ever wondered why it’s not ok for people to say “gypped” to mean “to cheat,” why you can’t make the word “Gypsy” mean whatever you want it to mean, or where the magical, sexy, thieving, wanderlusting “Gypsy” stereotypes come from, then read this.

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/gypsy

 

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Image of the Gypsy Netflix posters with anti-racist grafitti from Bitch Media 

Book Review: Witches, Sluts, Feminists by Kristen Sollée is a Must-Read

I was delighted to review a book I love, Witches, Sluts, Feminists by Kristen J. Sollée, for BUST.com. Here’s an excerpt:

As a Romani woman from a long, matrilineal line of healers and magic workers, how could I fail to be intrigued by Kristen J. Sollée’s book, Witches, Sluts, Feminists. It’s a scintillating, wry, and accessibly academic overview of the witch archetype in relation to the European and American witch hunts, and to the festival of misogyny in current American politics. Sollée, a professor of Gender Studies at The New School, teaches a popular class on the same topic. In the book, Sollée explores the deadly interplay of women’s financial and social autonomy, and sometimes sexual liberation, during the inquisition and the days of colonial America. Today, though sex and power can still be damning for women, they can also be quite a combination for activism and protest art.

In my review, I discuss the ways in which my own experience with witchcraft relates to Sollée’s work, and the ways in which she acknowledges that so much of modern Paganism is often unapologetically appropriative, and what can be done to initiate that healing. I should explain that my first line,”A Romani woman from a long, matrilineal line of healers and magic workers….” refers to the very ordinary magic of herbalism, energy work, and prayer that many Roma practice. My grandmother claims the title witch because it is understood by outsiders, and I do too. And while I am an English professor, writer, and editor, I also work the family trades, fortune telling and dancing, still practiced by some Roma. Like all Roma, I am not one thing. Romani people aren’t inherently magical, and most would be reluctant to claim the words “magic” and “witch” the way my family does, because these practices are not out of the ordinary. They are everyday healing, and I think that’s what Sollée is saying in her book too. The witch/slut archetype are very human, and that humanity is extraordinary in its tradition, practicality, and power.

For the full review on http://www.bust.com, follow this link: http://bust.com/books/193139-witches-sluts-feminists-kristen-sollee-review.html

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Loving the book in a lacy cami

My “Madness is Remembering” essay is published in Prairie Schooner!

I’m happy to share that “Madness is Remembering,” my essay awarded the Penelope Nivens Award by the Center for Women Writers and Elissa Washuta last year, is now in the Summer 2017 issue of Prairie Schooner. The essay is about love, cyclical violence, Romani (“Gypsy”) culture, inherited trauma, and survival. I’ll be in there alongside writer and friend Brenda Peynado, so make sure to check out her story too! The summer print issue will be available to order soon!

Portrait by Aurora Rose and John

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This photo is part of a series by the photographer Aurora Rose de Crosta. More on this later. She and John took many portraits, and I chose this as my favorite and answered this short interview to go along with it. Check out Aurora’s and John’s work at www.auroraandjohn.com. They are a beautiful and talented pair who I am so honored to have worked with.

1). Why did you choose the outfit you did? What about it represents you the most?
I chose this outfit because it’s one of my favorite dresses to wear when I dance. I like to perform a combination of Romani dance and Bellydance, but actually the dress is a Mexican wedding dress from the 1970’s from my favorite vintage store, The Odd Showroom, which was operated by the artist Amity Joy. I am a writer, perhaps first and foremost, but my grandmother taught me her Romani (“Gypsy”) family trades fortune telling, dance, and healing. The word “Gypsy” is a racial slur and reduces us to stereotypes, a dangerous thing in the midst of the current Romani human rights crisis. We are more than fortune tellers and dancers– I am also an English professor, writer, artist, editor, and activist– but these old trades, born of persecution in the centuries after our ancestors left India in the great diaspora, live on too.

2). Do you in general like being photographed? Why?
Yes and no. I did some very small-time modeling when I was young, and I suppose I got used to it, and now I’m a professional art model and have my image rendered in a number of mediums over and over again. If you believe in astrology, I am on the Cancer/Leo cusp (a touch deeper into Leo), and I suppose my relationship with having my picture taken reflects this. I don’t actually know anything about astrology though. I like being a part of an artist’s work, but sometimes it’s hard to look at my own image.

3). How did you feel during the shoot?
Aurora and John were so kind and creative and gave me loving direction while encouraging my own spontaneity. What a joy to work with! Deniz Ataman did my makeup, and she made me feel so glamorous. I loved that we shot in my bedroom too– the whole thing felt so intimate and sweet, and I felt supported in being myself, in all my odd multitudes.

4). Why did you choose the photo you chose?
I am a writer, and I fancy that in this photo I have a crazy face like Jean of Arc in Jules Bastien-Lepage (1879) painting (my paternal grandfather’s favorite), when the angels are telling her what her calling is. When I was a child, I believed that writing was my purpose, and it gave me a reason to live with a fire that I flattered myself by likening to Jean of Arc’s fire. I still might believe that.

5). Were there any particular images you hated? Why?
Anything remotely unflattering I will always hate because my vanity runs wide and deep.

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Joan of Arc, Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Farewell, Mrs. Crumlish

Violet Crumlish, dubbed the ‘Lady Diana of Travelers’, lost her battle with bowel cancer earlier this week. Her remains were flown to Ireland and she will be laid to rest in County Armagh, the place where she was born.

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Dying traveller Violet Crumlish known as Lady Diana. Profile picture taken from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/violet.crumlish.5

About a month earlier, thousands of travelers from around the world had already visited Mrs. Crumlish, when she was confined in a local hospital. Owen, one of her sons, estimated that approximately 9,000 people went to Bristol just to see her before she passed.

Aside from her family, the ‘Gypsy queen’ is considered a mother by many within the traveler community. Jimmy, another son, remarked, “She was a lovely caring woman. She would never see anyone wronged or harmed, her door was always open to everyone no matter who you were. She was completely non-judgmental.”

More people are still expected to pay their final respects. All ferries to Ireland from England and the rest of Europe are booked up in the coming days as travelers want to say goodbye to their ‘Gypsy’ mother.

The wake is held in a funeral home along Falls Road, Belfast, and a royal send off is being prepared. The hearse carrying Mrs. Crumlish will be drawn by a white horse to St. Peter’s Church in Lurgan for the Requiem Mass. The procession will also include 10 black limousines.

For her burial, a red carpet will be rolled out at St. Colman’s cemetery. Furthermore, white doves will be set free at the graveside. It’s a final act that will certainly be fit for a queen.

“Gypsy” is a catch-all word that to refers to Roma, Sinti, and other groups related to the Roma, as well as Travelers who are ethnically distinct from the aforementioned groups. The word ‘Gypsy’ is often used as a slur, however, some Roma, Sinti, and Travelers reclaim the word as an act of empowerment, like Violet Crumlish. There are various “Gypsy” cultures all around the world and their presence is well-known everywhere due to their diasporic roots and rich history. Although heavily linked to the word ‘travel’, a lot of many Travelers are settled, including the late Mrs. Crumlish who was married to her husband for 44-years and had settled in Bristol, which she referred to as their home.

Travellers, Roma, and Sinti have long been associated with all sorts of arts, music, singing,

and dancing. So much so that even in recent years, the “Gypsy” community has reached television shows in many different forms. There have been many who’ve used Mrs. Crumlish’s inspiration to seek worldwide acclaim on talent shows. The X-Factor, the reality talent show. The X-Factor, the reality talent show which also has several associated gaming titles, has been the avenue for gypsy singers like Cher Lloyd and Olivia Ayres. Moreover, we’ve previously talked about the September 2 GAMBAZine wherein Romani and Sinti (Gypsy) dance and literature were showcased.

This goes to show that ‘Gypsies” love for tradition and culture never wanes. There are still many traveling groups who perform regularly for large crowds. However, the community was recently brought to a temporary standstill with the news of the ‘Traveler Queen’s’ journey to her next life.

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Photo by Len Reidy

Upcoming literary & Gypsy dance performance at GAMBAZine 9/2

I’m so happy to share the stage with these artists and writers who I admire so much. During this performance on September 2nd at Hell Phone (starts at 8!), I’ll be performing a different piece from the Summer Writes performance, but this one will also include a cocktail of Romani (“Gypsy”) dance and literature. If you can make it, I can assure you that it will be an evening of diverse artists bringing and baring themselves to the stage. We hope to see you there! And if you would like to perform at these monthly events, you should get in touch with GAMBAZine too! Check out the full lineup and Facebook Invite below.

*Readers will know how much I like reclaiming the word “Gypsy,” so do’t be alarmed by this act of linguistic empowerment.

The Island of GAMBAZini presents monthly night of curated literary and musical performances from diverse and independent artists. This particular event is meant to inspire your inner island. What would you share in your freest moment? What magical creatures exists within you? When you are nude and experiencing the heat of nature what do you think about? Skinny dipping at night under a full moon with an endless amount of ocean surrounding you – what do you reflect on?
Feel free to wear island inspired attire – mermaids, unicorns and plant life welcome.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1229950513703913/

Performers Include
Deniz Ataman
Chris Carr
Clairette Durand-Gasselin
Harriet Halsey
Tatiana Lima
Jessica Reidy
Brian Sheffield
Joseph Alexander Garel
Ms. Reign
Craig Kite
Lisa Marie Basile
B. Perdomo
Ruby Brunton & Deirdre Coyle

*Photo by Eat the Cake NYC*

Hot art and Literature at Summer Writes 7/23

Come, this Saturday, to a magical rite of art and literature, a veritable carnival. I’ll be taking the stage with a performance that’s half-literature, half-dance, and not appropriate for children. So even if you hate my style, my little sliver of the evening will be racy and weird, and that might be worth something to you. Best of all, many artists will be performing, and they are all fantastic and I’m lucky to be among them.To learn more about this incredibly fun night and the artists, see below.

“This Saturday Dallas Athent, Christian Niedan, Melissa Hunter Gurney and Christoph are bringing Nomadic Press, Brooklyn Wildlife and GAMBA Magazine together for a late afternoon and evening of art and celebration. Summer Writes which will start promptly at 5pm and run till 8 in the backyard of The Hollows, an artist residency at 151 Bedford Ave in Williamsburg run by Pırıl & Friends, promotes independence and diversity within the arts with acoustic music, readings and electronic sounds by Jon Eckhaus Directly after this the celebration continues with Danielle and Vanessa at Hell Phone where Brooklyn Wildlife will be hosting a listening party for Crimdella (Mandella Brathwaite of Black God Pantheon’s) new EP Bury Me in Gold Vol. 1 produced by MNDCFT.
What does this mean? It means you get free art by 20+ diverse and independent writers and musicians. It means you get to have free wine and whiskey at happy hour and then come to hell phone for delicious French food to sooth your buzz and carry you into the evening. It means you get a sneak peak at one of New York Cities prolific rappers newest projects. It means you will meet new artists and new friends. It means you will get to see artists like Stanford Reid, Maayan Oppenheim, Brian Sheffield, Craig Kite, Jessica Reidy, Christine Stoddard, Chris Campanioni and Nathaniel Kressen. It means you will have a phenomenal Saturday – so – don’t miss it and bring those inspired by the arts to enjoy it with you.
Can’t wait to see you soon! RSVP on event links below
https://www.facebook.com/events/1333040806713992/
https://www.facebook.com/events/831494326974241/

 

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If you enjoy angry, literary stripping, come see me. Photo Credit: Oscar Fuertes