Carol Miller“The first significant Gypsy lesson to be learned was that a cold and unfeeling heart is unforgivable.”
“A wild and bittersweet adventure into a world none but Machvaia Gypsies know.” —Susan Sarandon
“Bette Davis. That’s who I’m like. Did you notice? Everybody says so.”
Gypsies in America are hidden. With estimates between fifty thousand and more than a million, the Gypsy population is as mysterious as their ways, and misinformation swirls around them like so much painted fabric. With remarkable vividness, Lola’s Luck peers behind the curtain, past the paisley walls and twinkling lights to find the authentic story of an extraordinary woman, Lola, “expert advisor on love, business and marriage.”
As a young graduate student in anthropology, Carol Miller predicted a future of field notes, scholarly publications and afternoon lectures. When she began to study the Machvaia Gypsies in Seattle and along the West Coast of America, she did not expect to be drawn so deeply into a culture that would change her life, and those of the Gypsies.
Door after door was closed by the fortune-tellers and future seers she sought to interview. Her luck changed when she was pressed into service as a chauffeur by the unforgettable matriarch. The flamboyant Lola became her guide, her inspiration, her luck and her friend. Lola described her early years in an overloaded wagon, moving across America. When she joined her husband’s expanding family, they slept in tents and traveled, at first by horse and wagon, and then in a caravan of cars.
“She was a Machvanka of Serbian Gypsy background, a bright, short, plumpish parrot, propelled to energy and movement by an abiding taste for the good things of life. She knew how to seize the moment and, just a few hours after we met, Lola announced with abrupt decisiveness that we were bound to be best friends. It was hard not to believe her.”
Lola was barvali, which to the Roma means big, powerful and lucky. She introduced the young scholar to magnificent personalities and outrageous stories of the past, and she showed her the true identity of the misunderstood Machvaia.
Immersed in this riotous, passionate world, the young student’s heart stood no chance against the affections of a married Gypsy man. Soon, their frenzied and potentially ruinous affair overwhelmed them. Wanting to study ritual and kinship, the researcher ended by studying the heart.
“Lola said the great adventures are those of the heart, and that loving is always a risk. And not loving enough is riskier. That giving generously, with gladness and abandon, is something a person can count on; getting love back is serendipitous…life was short, too short, and the best plan of action was to ‘live like you are going out of style.’ “
Lola’s Luck is an authentic story of an amazing encounter with Machvaia Roma, a glimpse not seen since Jan Yoors wrote about his experience with Lovara Roma before the Second War. Compelling — you will not be able to put it down.” —Anne Sutherland, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside; author, Gypsies: The Hidden Americans
Here is a fresh response to the stereotypes that surround Gypsies, a traditional culture trying to keep itself alive in the face of American values and capitalism. In the end, it is Lola’s story, “The story of the world!” that rivets us. Hand on hip, heart as big as the widest space, a Gypsy, yes, and a Queen.
“Part of Lola’s luck is being immortalized in this book by a sensitive anthropologist who invested in long-term research well before most social scientists thought of doing so.” —Rena Gropper, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Hunter College of the City University of NY, Department of Anthropology
Carol Miller is an anthropologist who has studied the Machvaia Roma of California. Gypsy ritual, belief and celebration are the topics of her work. She lives in Seattle and spends much of the year in California.
Lola’s Luck: My Life Among the California Gypsies
Paper, 240 pages, 8-page color insert