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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."
Buy Zoli by Colum McCann
San Francisco Chronicle review
by June Sawyers

The Guardian review
by Richard Eyre

The Independent review
by Julia Pascal

Seattle Times review
by Ellen Emry Heltzel

Christian Science Monitor review
by Yvonne Zipp

BookPage review
by Deborah Donovan

Boston Globe review
by Gail Caldwell

The Independent review
by Ed Wood

Scotland on Sunday review
by Lucina Byatt

New York Times review
by Richard Eder

Washington Post review
by Frances Itani

Colum McCann
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