On the Road: Books about Travellers and Roma

With the booming economy in the 1900s, thousands of people left their rural homes and joined the battering ram of urbanization, setting up new homes in the city and commencing a life of work in the concrete jungles. Economies are boom and bust of course, and the bust that came in the 1920s hit the world hard. Books about “gypsies” tell how, as the 1930s pushed onward, people in Europe returned home to their rural hometowns, casting out the settlers who had moved in to undertake the required work to keep those areas going.

Those cast out found themselves nomadic for the first time in generations – among them the Roma people who had lived in Europe for hundreds of years. Though recognised as a nomadic group, the reality is that Roma people were settled in the towns and villages of Europe for many years. And though talk about genocide in World War II focuses mostly on the impact on the Jewish communities in the Holocaust, the Roma too were targeted for destruction. They call it the Porrajmos, or ‘devouring’. Their records are poor because they have never had an opportunity to collect their own history, but estimates suggest that between 500,000 and 1,500,000 Roma died in the Porrajmos, many of them at Birkenau. Though it’s very hard to locate, And the Violins Stopped Playing by Alexander Ramati tells a true tale of a Roma family who faced the horror of the Porajmos.

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A Bookish Tour of Hawai’i

Hawai’i has been having a hard time lately, between the ongoing eruption of Kilauea and the floods and landslides caused by Hurricane Lane. Last year I spent an amazing fortnight travelling between Oahu and Hawaii (the Big Island) with my boyfriend, meeting some incredibly kind people and experiencing the very best of Hawai’i, both on the beaten track and off.

We started our journey on the island of Oahu, flying from London through Vancouver to Honolulu, which was oh-my-god so long of a journey. On our first day, we went to Pearl Harbour and spent an afternoon in the blistering heat visiting the USS Arizona Memorial and the Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Needless to say, there’s a neat bookshop here chock full of World War II history with a particular focus on the Pacific side of the war. On top of that, we stayed wandering and came upon the Pacific Aviation Museum, which has a really specialised shop showing the immense aviation history that stemmed from this small part of the world.

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