Monthly Archives: August 2013

No Place to Call Home – book reviews

A round-up of reviews here. 

Ian Birrell, who also reviewed my last book, Scapegoat: why we are failing disabled people, posted a very thoughtful review in the Observer. He concluded that it was “An important book by an impressive journalist” although he did feel there was a bit too much reporting from Dale Farm which does form the spine of the narrative. But he did feel it painted a rightfully bleak picture of the bleak social exclusion in which so many Romanies and Travellers lives – although there’s lots of fun to be had as well in the communities! Read the full review here: 

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/aug/26/no-place-home-quarmby-review

In the Guardian, Rose George said that the book was “forcefully written” and concludes: “As an exposure of the modern troubles of these unique, tight-knit communities of Travellers, it sets you travelling on the right road.” Interestingly, she felt that I was sentimental at times about the communities. I disagree, of course; I feel that I let their feelings show, as fellow human beings. But it’s a fair review: 

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/aug/16/no-place-call-home-travellers?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

The Times review, by Fay Schlesinger, can only be seen behind the paywall, but to sum up, the reporter concurs that it is difficult to report from both sides of the conflict as one side inevitably feels hard done by. She runs through the history in the book and does a fair summary of the book, concluding that while I attempt to write a dispassionate history of both sides of the conflict, I end up on the side of the Travellers (you must judge that for yourselves of course!). If you have a subscription you can read it here: 

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/books/non-fiction/article3841137.ece

The review by the Herald, in Scotland, is a very thoughtful run-through of the main issues facing Gypsies, Roma and Travellers today and historically, concluding: “Even in households where anti-Semitism and Islamophobia would be unacceptable, slurs against Gypsies and Travellers are still allowed to propagate, which is why Quarmby’s book deserves to be given due prominence. Without greater under-standing there will be more, and bloodier, Dale Farms will follow.” It rightly, in my mind, states that racism against travelling people is the last accepted form of racism in this country. 

You can read the full review here: 

http://www.heraldscotland.com/books-poetry/reviews/katharine-quarmby-no-place-to-call-home-oneworld.21901309

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No Place to Call Home – publication

No Place to Call Home will be published next Thursday – after pretty much 18 months work on it, and not much else, and some years before that, of course, spending time with the Romani Gypsy and Traveller communities (and, in later times, getting to know some of the newly arrived Roma as well). 

The Observer newspaper ran an extract from one of the chapters, about one of the most difficult conflicts around Gypsies and the settled community I have covered, in the Midlands last Sunday. You can read it here: 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/04/gypsies-belong-here-meriden-travellers

That particular conflict continues, with an ongoing inquiry, which the Communities Secretary himself has called in as a decision on which he will personally decide. 

Looking back over the last seven years, since I first visited a Traveller site, what have I learnt? I’ve met wonderful, friendly and warm-hearted people both from the Gypsy and Traveller communities and the settled community, and I’ve witnessed many officials, council workers, some politicians, campaigners and police officers trying to make things better for all concerned. I’ve also witnessed racism, hostility, and a wish to ratchet up conflict, rather than reach a solution that benefits everybody. 

I’d like to see a conflict resolution model applied to the vexed issue of accommodation for the communities, and for people without a home to be treated with more compassion. As one young disabled, homeless Gypsy told me recently, “We would die rather than move onto a cricket pitch, most of us would. You would have to be really desperate to do something like that.” We need better solutions than that to a homelessness problem that is benefitting nobody – I think everyone can at least agree on that. So maybe that’s the place to start from – because everyone, in the end, wants a place they can call home.