Wait, wait, don’t hang up. This is not a commercial. Well, not exactly. It’s complicated.
Let me start at the beginning. About two years ago, my friend Allen Williams approached me with a question. “Amoun Sleem wants to write her autobiography. Do you know a writer who would help her shape it into a book?” I knew enough about this unusual Gypsy woman from previous conversations with Allen to know that her story was worth telling. (Gypsy is her preferred term although her people are also called the Dom in the Middle East. She thinks it brings a visual image of her colorful creative people.)
I answered the question I knew he was really asking, “Yes, I will help her.” English, just one of several languages Amoun speaks fluently, challenges her when it comes to putting it on paper.
We began our process with Allen sending me everything that had been written by or about her. An accurate general account emerged of a little Gypsy girl selling post cards at the Lion’s Gate who grew up to overcome discrimination, get an education, and establish the Domari Center in Jerusalem. I saw an unusual story immediately, since Amoun comes from a culture where those who complete an education are “scarce as hen’s teeth” if I may throw a Southern saying into this Gypsy narrative.
We also established a Facebook friendship between Amoun and me. I began firing questions to her and enjoying her answers. Last spring, she came to the United States. For two days of her visit, Allen, Amoun, and I sat at my dining room table as she told more stories and filled in details. Allen, who has known her for many years, would say, “Tell the story about . . .” when she began to wind down. I wore down a few pencils as I filled my legal pads. I told about this visit in my previous blog “Driving Amoun Crazy.”
Although I am listed as “editor,” my part in this task brought to mind my father’s explanation of an amanuensis who was something more than a secretary who took dictation and put into words someone else’s story. The challenge for me was how to retain her voice as I organized and polished her delightful tales into an interesting and logical order. When I finished, I took it to my husband (and favorite first reader) for review. He brought it back into my office when he finished and said, “This sounds like Amoun.” He didn’t stay long enough to see my happy dance!
A Gypsy Dreaming in Jerusalem has just been released and is available from Nurturing Faith, Amazon, and other book stores. Amoun’s stories bring laughter, tears, and sometimes outrage at the injustice she has experienced. So maybe this is a commercial for the book. My work was a gift. Proceeds from book sales will support Amoun’s work in the Domari Center where she seeks to preserve the Gypsy culture and to help Gypsy adults and children create and fulfill their own good dreams.
I can’t say I have gained nothing from this process. Amoun and I bonded during our work together. The value of the deep friendship I formed with this accomplished effervescent Gypsy woman? – Beyond all measure!