I asked Armadillo reviewer and writer Bridget Carrington to review a book by Kathryn James so that we could mark a special event this month and link it to YA fiction. The following is Bridget's contribution:
All over the UK June is Gypsy Roma TravellerHistory Month, and perfectly timed for this comes Kathryn James latest novel, Gypsy Girl (Walker Books). Kathryn writes from in-depth experience of this very special and widely misrepresented group, as she worked for years in a variety of jobs which supported the traveller community.
In an interview she has written:
When I met up with the Gypsy girls we’d worked with in the past, they moaned that there’s never any books or stories about their lives. They and I both wanted a kick-ass Gypsy girl heroine. Sassy. Gypsy smart rather than School smart. And true to what the girls are really like.
Sammy-Jo Smith is just that. She’s a prize-winning fighter, but can’t progress to the official adult fights because she’s too young. Her big sister wants a big wedding, so Sammy-Jo secretly earns money in illegal cage fights to pay for it, and remains unbeaten against all-comers. But this year when the Smith family pulls onto the field they’ve always stopped on they find they are no longer welcome, and Sammy-Jo discovers there’s far more to that than meets the eye too. And she’s fallen in love with a gorger, whose father owns the field, although she’s expected to marry a cousin, who seems to be mixed up in something illegal. Sammy-Jo is an unusual heroine, and her world will be unfamiliar to many readers, except via the discriminatory reports in certain areas of the media. Through her we learn much about the close family units, about the history of the people and their traditions, and how they’re both the same and different from us – the housed. All this comes through a fast-paced, exciting, and frequently funny, mystery-adventure-romance with an engaging heroine.
There’s a hint that we might see more of her – I certainly hope so!
There’s an excellent Guardian picture article in which Kathryn James shows the sources for some of the ideas in Gypsy Girl, and a piece on the GRTHM site about a traveller who competed in the boxing in the 2012 Olympics.