It’s a bit unusual to have three publications out in one month, but very exciting – and they are all collaborations with lovely people.
The first two are picture books, co-written with the English Traveller, Richard O’Neill, and are published to coincide with Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month. Yokki and the Parno Gry, about a magic horse and its relationship with a Traveller family which has fallen on hard times, is a really lovely story and was great fun to work on with Richard, turning it, with his blessing from an oral story to a picture book. The other, Ossiri and the Bala Mengro, is a more comical story about a monster, and a girl from a Travelling background who yearns to be a musician.
Equally, it was an honour to contribute a chapter, ‘Becoming English’ to A Country of Refuge, edited by Lucy Popescu and published by Unbound this month. This was a book that celebrates the contributions that refugees have made to this country. I wrote about my mother and grandmother coming to the UK just after the war from what was then Yugoslavia.
I’m so proud of all three books, which have at their heart a respect of difference and diversity. We need publishers who fund such books at a time when refugees are being turned away at the borders of Europe. My mother and grandmother were welcomed when they arrived at Croydon airport in 1946, with the aid of the Red Cross. Things are very different now. They don’t have to be. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are still persecuted across Europe. They don’t have to be. As Jo Cox said, we have more in common than divides us.