Non-fiction is one of the book genres that I rarely read. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the gritty realness told in autobiography and Gypsey Boy on the Run offers this in spades along with plenty of tear-jerking moments.
The book tells the story of Mikey Walsh; a gypsy forced to run away from his family in order to live his life as a proud gay man. Mikey is born into a Romany Gypsy family and raised in the customs and Gypsy traditions. From an early age, Mikey must learn to fight and act stereotypically masculine. His childhood on UK caravan parks provides readers with a mixture of bittersweet memories. Mikey suffers from domestic violence during his youth, often at his family’s own hands, whilst being forced to hide his feelings for a ‘Gorgia’ man (non-gypsy). After battling with the decision to leave his family, and knowing he can never return, he must find his place in a new but equally difficult world. Readers follow Mikey as he embarks on the harrowing path to gain his own life.
The book is a simple read and provides a real insight into Gypsy cultures from a fresh perspective. Readers may be acquainted with certain customs from TV shows like ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’. However, Mikey can delve into the real heart of the Romany Gypsy community revealing the charms and horrors that lie beneath their traditions. Interestingly, Mikey Walsh is one of the first Romany Gypsysies to write a book.
The tone of the book allows the reader to get lost in Mikey’s life. He balances his storytelling with humourous anecdotes and then truly horrifying stories. All of which makes for a real page-turner. Particular anecdotes offer comedic relief from flatshares with drag queens in Manchester to discovering the liberating freedom of dancing in a gay club without judgement. A majority of the book I struggled to understand why Mickey remained loyal to his father and his heritage. By the end of the book, you come to realise his heritage is important and he had to forgive his family in order to be at peace with his past.
I discovered this book was a sequel at the end when Mikey reveals his path into becoming a published author. However, this did not affect my understanding of the story. I found Gypsy Boy on the Run can be read as a standalone book because a majority of the book Mickey reflects on his life before running away. I haven’t read the first instalment, Gypsy Boy, but have managed to ascertain that the book embellishes his childhood. Despite the urge to read the first instalment, I feel this is certainly the superior book. Not only does it offer a conclusive happy ending, but it also focuses on how Mikey learned to love himself.