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Zoli by Colum McCann
Zoli, the title character of Colum McCann's novel, is a Gypsy (Roma) girl in Slovakia whose family is forcibly drowned by fascist soldiers just before World War II. She joins her grandfather's group and they spend the war fleeing Nazi persecution. Zoli teaches herself to read and write, something forbidden to Roma women, and becomes a poet. She meets Stephen Swann, a half-Irish, half-Slovak man infatuated with his Slovak background. He falls in love with Zoli's singing of Roma songs and her poetry, and then with Zoli herself. He wants Zoli to marry him, but Roma women aren't supposed to marry outside of the Roma population. He convinces Zoli to have her poetry published, but after she changes her mind, he has them published anyway. Communist leaders in Slovakia use her poetry as propaganda for assimilation of the Roma population and elimination of their language and traditions. This leads to Zoli's isolation from the rest of Roma society. Colum McCann's novel has received mostly positive reviews with BookPage saying, "McCann's story is loosely based on a real Gypsy poet, Papsuza, who was exiled by her people when her poems were published. He has enriched that story with insightful and evocative prose, and in Zoli has created a vibrant character who is able to maintain her identity and proud heritage, even when abandoned by those she loves."
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