By 2019, in all countries in Europe where Roma live, a number of publications for children varying from materials to support the education of the Roma to original books by Roma authors with tales, short stories, poetry and educational materials have appeared. These are primarily bi-lingual books written in Romani and/or in the language of the majority in the country of publication, published under various circumstances, but most of them reflecting the Romani culture and identity. Romani children literature, original and in translation, is among the first genres to be developed dating back as soon as the immergence of Romani literature as part of fully (though for only a decade) developed Romani literary landscape in the 1920-30s in the Soviet Union to serve the needs of the Romani population and its enlightening the spirit of the new regime.
The landscape of the Romani kids´ publication in the Nordic countries is not a homogeneous one.
Nowadays, books for children have been among the most numerous publications written and published by and for Roma, because of the importance of the Romani children education and strengthening Romani culture and identity through it. The landscape of the Romani kids´ publication in the Nordic countries is not a homogeneous one. Romani children´s and young adult literature production depends on the local circumstances among which national policies in the field of education, minorities, language policies, activism, as well as on individual factors. Instead of providing an exhaustive list of the productions and authors, which is anyway impossible, I would suggest a typology of the common development, genres and topics that we observe in Romani publications for children in the Nordic countries.
…in Denmark and Norway no special policies to support Romani language education are taking place.
In Sweden and Finland, there are state-supported initiatives for the production of educational materials for Romani children, as in the two countries Romani is recognized as a minority language, while in Denmark and Norway no special policies to support Romani language education are taking place. In the 1970s, the Swedish government started implementing measures for educating Roma, both children and adults. At that period a couple of Romani language works appeared in Sweden. In 1979 Amari šib (Our language), a language learning brochure appeared to be republished in 1982. Various educational materials are produced today in all Romani dialects spoken in Sweden with the support of Skolverket, the National Board of Education. In Finland, the Romani activists Viljo Koivisto (in the 1980s), Miranda Voulasranta and Henry Hedman have authored several educational publications that are applied in education today. In Denmark a couple of primary education books were published by Selahetin Kruezi.
There are also lots of tales, fairy tales and story books based on narrations from the Romani community. Examples of Romani language publications are the Kalradash folklore tale books by Monica and Dragan Caldaras (1983), Living Water collection of tales by Mikael Demetri and Angelina Dimiter-Taikon (2002) in Sweden, Fairy-Tale Bag of Romaniuk by Inga Angersaari’s (2001) in Finland, as well as Real Stories and Tales by Maria Barinka Lakatosova and Robert Lorentsen in Norway (2016).
The Swedish literature scene appears to be most developed to a great extent due to the involvement of Gunilla Lundgren who inspired/co-authored/edited a great part of the Romani books.
Fiction books on contemporary topics inspired by autobiographic experience or life-narrative with rich illustrative materials (graphics, pictures or phonographs) are also popular. The most famous one is the Katitzi book series by Katarina Taikon published in Swedish that has become part of the Swedish mainstream literature canon. The Swedish literature scene appears to be most developed to a great extent due to the involvement of Gunilla Lundgren who inspired/co-authored/edited a great part of the Romani books. Sofia Taikon, Ramona Taikon-Melker, Erland Kaldaras, Domino Kai and Fred Taikon have published such books in Sweden. In Finland, a couple of publication have been co-authored by Helena Blomerus, Satu Blomerus and Helena Korpela.
The commonalities that we see in Nordic Romani literature for children is not only in terms of the genre’s diversity, but also in terms of the narrations and Romani collective representation.
The commonalities that we see in Nordic Romani literature for children is not only in terms of the genre’s diversity, but also in terms of the narrations and Romani collective representation. The common topics are: Romani authors´ interpretations of oral narratives existing in the Romani communities; Narratives about a collective self (of a Romani girl or boy, and her/his experience within the community and majority society) often based on autobiographical experience; Narratives in text and visuals related to Romani history and way of life in the past and present. In this respect we can say that Nordic Romani children and youth literature is comparable with the developments of other minorities´ literatures in the Nordic context and globally.
Sofiya Zahova is a postdoc researcher at the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Language, School of Humanities, University of Iceland where she works on the project Romane Lila. The entangled history of Romani identity politics and Romani publications (funded by the Icelandic Research Fund – RANNIS). Her main interests are in the field of Romani Studies, History and Ethnography of the Balkans and Eastern Europe. She is author of the books Montenegro after Yugoslavia: Dynamics of Identities (2013, in Bulgarian), History of Romani Literature with Multimedia on Romani Kids´ Publications” (2014) and of the UNICEF-commissioned report Research on the Social Norms which Prevent Roma Girls from Access to Education (2016, in Bulgarian and English).