October 3rd, 2013
“Cazzarola!: Anarchy, Romani, Love, Italy” by Norman Nawrocki, might just be one of my favorite books of all time. When I first sat down to read, I wasn’t really hoping for much – another story with Gypsy characters as stereotypical tropes filling a need for mystery, intrigue, and danger.
But cazzo!!!! I was so spectacularly and pleasantly surprised!
Spanning 130 years in the life of the Discordias, a family of Italian anarchists, Cazzarola! Is at once a leap into Italian history and politics, as well as a romantic journey with a couple who simply should not be together.
Many historical novels are dry, as bitter as the politics they write about and as shriveled as the bodies that once inhabited it. But Cazzarola! is different; it’s juicy, full of life and surprisingly sweet moments that catch you unaware.
I love history, it’s true. But, I love accurate and thoughtful portrayals of my people better. I’m often asked for book recommendations that include Romani characters, particularly women. Well, dear readers HERE IS THAT BOOK. From the moment I read about Cinka, I was hooked.
She was shy. I was patient. I bought her coffee and sandwiches and hung around. We talked music, philosophy, history. She’s smart, a real thinker with opinions about everything.
Cinka is a Gypsy and proud of it. Not your stereotypical fortune-telling Gypsy. Not at all. She’s a “Romani” – the correct term for her and her people.
It’s not often that we’re portrayed as smart, education, and independent. In between passages on 20th century factory strikes and occupations, armed anarchist militias, and contemporary neofascist violence, Antonio Discordia and Cinka Dinicu attempt to make a forbidden life together work.
He is a gadjo and she is a Romani in Italy – a country not known for it’s kindness towards immigrants, especially Roman. Antonio must come to understand the hatred and discrimination Cinka faces, and likewise, she must learn to trust him. I have never read a more delicate portrayal of a Romani woman in my life. Her strength, resilience and brilliance shine. She mades me proud of who I am, which is hard to do, never mind through the pages of a book.
I highly recommend to Roma and non-Roma alike. With the rise of neo-Nazi and neofascist groups (such as the Golden Dawn and the Jobbik Party) throughout Europe, this book is definitely timely and a must read. It’s a history lesson and a lesson about racism, love and fighting for what you believe in at all cost.
Cazzarola! presents Roamni culture and history as if you didn’t know anything, but not in a way that spells out each individual moment since our leaving India. It is a book that, as a Romani, let me enjoy the accurate and beautiful portrayal of another Romani woman.
We have a saying in my family, ” “Chines church, e duke pes pretzel. Chines laveha, e duke achel” – a wound from a knife fades away; a wound from a word remains. So many books leave such painful scars, but Cazzarola! had me laughing, crying and cursing out loud.
Don’t take my word for it, please READ IT FOR YOURSELF!
[There is also a soundtrack for the book coming out later this month! EXCITED!!!]