The library of growing-up-gay horrors gets another raw entry with this memoir of a boy in Britain's Romany community forced to train in bare knuckle fighting from the age of four. His father was England's brawling champion and expected the same of his son, matching him with older boys who invariably won. After every defeat, his father ranted "about how ashamed of me he was, how I was a pathetic coward and he didn't know how he'd ever make a man of me." The training and fighting were daily and weekly rituals, as gypsy children don't attend school. According to the author, the boys were chain smoking by the time they were eight and alcoholic soon after. His uncle sexually abused him since he was seven. When his father found out Mikey was gay he tried to kill him, then put out a contract to finish the job. He fled in his teens. Now in his 30s, he says he misses the gypsy life, loves his family, and is hurt when people call his father a "monster." He recently told the Mirror, "I had an amazing childhood. I never ever sat there thinking: ‘Why is my life so terrible, why does my father hate me?’"
A surprise #1 bestseller in the UK, Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies [Kindle] has yet to catch on here. The sequel, Gypsy Boy on the Run, tells the happier story of his post-gypsy life, including finally learning to read and write. (You should approach the books understanding he came late to literacy.) Three years ago Mikey entered a civil partnership with an Aussie called Dillon. Although the Walshes didn't attend the ceremony, Mikey's mother made a three-tiered cake topped by a white-chocolate skull.
Loads of praise after the jump.