Gypsy Boy on the Run

My Escape from a Life Among the Romany Gypsies

Mikey Walsh

Thomas Dunne Books

Mikey Walsh didn’t know what life was like beyond his Gypsy community. But after fleeing home at age fifteen, he had no choice but to find out.

After centuries of persecution, Gypsies are wary of outsiders, and if you choose to leave, you can never come back. Torn between his family and his heart, Mikey struggled to come to terms with the Gypsy culture and its violent, conservative traditions. At last, he decided to set out on his own. He soon discovered the outside world wasn’t all that he expected, and his life would never be the same again.A shocking yet ultimately triumphant memoir, Gypsy Boy on the Run follows Mikey as he comes to terms with himself, his family, and his past—and builds a new life for himself.


Read an Excerpt


The clouds burst and rain began to hammer against the windscreen as we hit the motorway.

Caleb's face was a mask of concentration as he gripped the steering wheel, pushing his little orange car to slice through the curtains of water at speeds it had never reached before.

Panic gripped me as I looked over my shoulder for the hundredth time.

The road was clear. But for how long?

Caleb reached for my hand. 'We'll be long gone when they find you're missing. I've got us a place to live, a long way from anyone who knows you. We'll be togethe



Praise for Gypsy Boy on the Run

Praise for Gypsy Boy on the Run

“The boldly intimate memoir of an English Gypsy's struggle to define himself and his sexuality outside the bounds of traditional Romany culture. … A great-hearted book of tenderness and brutality.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Funny, touching, and heartbreaking in equal measures, Gypsy Boy on the Run is a coming-of-age tale like no other.” —Grazia magazine

“An incredible story of a unique life.” —Heat magazine

“Determination and the kindness of strangers make his tale an uplifting one.” —Daily Express
“Fans of Mikey Walsh’s first memoir, about growing up gay in the Romany Gypsy community in England, will undoubtedly love the next installment in his life story: Gypsy Boy on the Run. … Walsh’s latest venture examines the mishaps, happy accidents and self-discovery that happen after leaving an insular, traditional culture.”—Next Magazine

"His story is remarkable, sometimes heartbreaking, often inspiring." —Hudson Valley News

“Every bit as stellar as its predecessor. If you’re searching for something for vacation, weekending or just because, Gypsy Boy on the Run is the best escape.” —The Washington Blade

Praise for Gypsy Boy

“He’s an irresistible guide through this secret world, and the tour is strongly recommended.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The earthy, violent, funny memoir of a gypsy boy in England. It’s absolutely riveting, un-put-downable.” --Anne Lamott, The Miami Herald

“An inside look at the Gypsy world through the eyes of a Gypsy . . . Read this book, and you’ll never look at, or think of, a Gypsy in the same way.” —The Washington Times

"Brash and frightening and funny — tonally, think of Frank McCourt meeting Axl Rose." --The New York Times

"In this violent yet often comic memoir, Walsh writes of life as an English Gypsy.... Gypsy Boy feels, in all its cocky, awkward affection and anguish, like the real deal." --The Boston Globe

"A poignant memoir that bears comparison to the bestselling Running With Scissors—but better written and far darker." --Kirkus Reviews

"This book is the extraordinary story of how a young man found his way in the secretive and illusive world of Romany Gypsies. ... Written with insight and a powerful and at times shocking narrative, this is an incredible book about a young man’s courage and his pride in his family and culture." --Tucson Citizen

"Absolutely can’t be missed. If you’re up for a funny, brutal, sharp memoir, this is the book you want."--Long Island Pulse Magazine

"His story is shocking, eye-opening, but finally triumphant. And remarkable." --Hudson Valley News

"Gypsy Boy tells the poignant story of a boy living in an unusual and secretive environment of shoplifting, boxing, and virtual illiteracy, a boy who desperately wants to please his abusive father but all the while grapples with his own clandestine issues. This extraordinary memoir about resilience and the human spirit is a rare glimpse into a world few of us can imagine." --The Advocate

"Absolutely can’t be missed. If you’re up for a funny, brutal, sharp memoir, this is the book you want." --The Washington Blade

"A sobering and compelling portrait of Gypsy life that is written by an insider." --The National

"Harrowing ... exposes disturbing connections between culture and abuse." --The Washington Post 

“This stunning childhood memoir takes readers into the insular culture of Romany Gypsies. … It is astounding that Walsh survived such brutality, without emotional support or formal education, to pen this unflinching but oddly generous memoir, demonstrating a respectful attitude toward Romany culture and affection toward his family.” --Library Journal

"This is a wonderfully readable tale of love, abuse, and eventual escape--all lived in the heart of an English Gypsy family.  The father is one of the most frightening figures I've encountered in years." --Edmund White, author of A Boy’s Own Story

"Reading Gypsy Boy, I felt invited into a secret society. I've always found Gypsies mysterious and even slightly dangerous, and Mikey Walsh does an excellent job describing the cloistered lifestyle and fascinating traditions of the Romany people. Moreover, Mikey's personal story of being a misfit among misfits is both compelling and universal. I cheered for him every step of the way." --Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land

“A revelation. Moving, terrifying, funny and brilliant. I shall never forget it—an amazing achievement.”--Stephen Fry

“Touching, insightful, funny, and incredibly shocking.” --Heat magazine (UK)

“Best memoir since Running with Scissors.” --Attitude

“Gypsy Boy
sits somewhere between the grittiness of Irvine Welsh and the charming warmth of Frank
McCourt.” --Dermot O’Leary, television and radio presenter, The X Factor

"Mikey Walsh provides an unsentimental and compelling look at the louche and brutal culture of Romany Gypsies in the U.K. ... Walsh analyzes the grotesqueries of Gypsy life in painful detail--garish trailers, stifling family ties, crime and crudeness, and the constricted options for women who are considered old maids at 21. Yet despite his gruesome experiences, he also praises the fierce loyalty and cultural continuity that have allowed Gypsies to maintain their dignity in the face of hatred for centuries." --Publishers Weekly

"A gripping and heartfelt page-turner." --Booklist (starred review)

"From family violence to the horrors of cockfighting, from stealing bikes from the local sports center to squeezing juice out of slugs as a remedy for warts, Mikey makes the gaudy world of Romany Gypsies in the U.K. erupt into life, interspersing these scenes with moments of tenderness and goofy comedy."--Shelf Awareness 

"Fantastic." --Bookpage

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Mikey Walsh

  • Mikey Walsh left the Gypsy community and moved to London. It is the longest he has ever stayed in one place. He taught himself to read and write and now works at a primary school as a teaching aide, and picks up the formal education he missed out on as a child. He is also the author of the internationally bestselling memoir Gypsy Boy.

  • Mikey Walsh


Available Formats and Book Details

Gypsy Boy on the Run

My Escape from a Life Among the Romany Gypsies

Mikey Walsh



Thomas Dunne Books