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on March 19, 2010
This is a rare and incisive view of the Gypsies of America. Carol Miller is perhaps the only non-Roma in the United States who has become part of Gypsy society, being accepted as a sister and surrogate daughter of Gypsy women, and finding the love of her life in a charismatic but elusive Traveler, profiled in her first book, Lola's Luck: My Life Among the California Gypsies. The Church of Cheese could be used by cultural anthropologists seeking an introduction to Gypsy society, but it is the general public who will enjoy it most. As Miller recounts the trials and tribulations, joys and celebrations of the Gypsy families she knows, she weaves in their customs, their rituals, and their beliefs. This is a tour de force by an author with a unique perspective on a hidden group of Americans who follow their own ancient ways in our very midst. As we discover in The Church of Cheese, Gypsies sing and dance to bring luck to each moment, both in their own lives and the lives of others. The Church of Cheese is a voyage of discovery, showing us people whom we sometimes admire, sometimes are suspicious of, but always are fascinated by. Carol Miller allows us to see their lives as they really are, rather than as they are so often depicted. I strongly encourage you to buy it!
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This is a study of Romani (Gypsy) people living in the Seattle area. As an anthropological study, there are imperfections of course, and much is missing from this book that I'd have liked to have read about (she mentions for example, the Kalderash and Machvari, two of the three major tribes of Vlax Romani, but the book fails to mention the Lovara tribe. Are they also in the United States?) At one point, the author does utter the wish that European anthropologists who study the Rom would combine their efforts with Americans because there is so much congruency among the Vlax Rom. This is astonishing as there are other groups, putative Rom origin such as the Romanichal of Great Britain and the Cale of Spain who have lost the Romani language or most of it, yet the Machvari and Kalderash have retained much of their customs and language even at a distance of time and geography.

If the Romani people interest you, one of the best anthropological books I ever read is Jan Yoors' autobiographical The Gypsies which is a rare inside look at a group of people much-maligned, misunderstood yet prevalent on every continent. Their history was until recently completely shrouded in misinformation (some of which was their own misdirection and secrecy and the other, greater part, the result of, as author Miller puts it, armchair authors writing about Gypsy caravans passing their windows.)

Carol Miller took it upon herself to do a mostly self-funded, decades-long study of Machvari Rom families in Seattle. After facing a disruptive divorce, in the ensuing confusion of her life, Miller made contacts and persistently worked at becoming accepted enough to learn the lives of these secretive people living in the Seattle and Northern California region. This is a good book with insight into American gypsies, and will give you a lot to think about when you see those dreadful reality shows about "Romanichal" or big fat Gypsy weddings on television. Quite a different thing.
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on October 12, 2015
I am currently taking a class on Gypsies and their culture at a University, we read this book in our class and just completed it. Carol Miller's book is the best I have read and my favorite to date To start, the type of reading it is makes it a favorite of mine. Her descriptive nature of how she saw things as she slowly worked to live in their community, and then in a sense thrived in their community really interested me. Sure there could be bias in the book, or swaying of how we saw things. However, I feel that the author tried her best to say 'this is how I saw things', and in some ways how she interpreted it along with giving descriptions of how the 'gypsy's' saw what she did. I say this because she asked a lot of questions, even asking questions those she was working with may not have always liked. But she did it for the sake of learning and understanding a world that she was interested in learning and sharing with the rest of the world.

Each chapter of the book studied the life through the world of certain gypsies that allowed her into their world and allowed them to write about their experiences. Whether they always told her the truth or doctored it in their own way to make themselves seem in a better light is another story. Each of the chapters also tried to study a certain perspective of gypsy life that I hadn't really learned of before. There was some overlap with the other readings that we have read so far in this class, but a lot of the things in this book were brand new things for me to learn about and understand. As I have said or alluded to before, I believe that Carol Miller really tried to explain each part of her book to the best of her ability by asking those she worked around in her field work or read from the literature that existed at the time of the writing of the book.
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on August 7, 2013
After reading "The Church of Cheese" by Carol Miller, I felt I had gained a deeper appreciation of the gypsy's influence on our culture. I grew up around them in the late 60's and early 70's, when there were a number of the Machvaia, the aristocrats of gypsy groups, here in Seattle. Their love of life and their way of life was fascinating to me. I encourage everyone to read this book as well as her first book about the world of gypsies, Lolas Luck.

John Krause
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on August 12, 2013
I have no background in the study of anthropology. My only background on Gypsies before reading Carol Miller's books was hearing my parents' comments on the the Gypsies who roamed Eastern Washington early in the 20th century, when my parents were children. I was intrigued to find that some groups of Gypsies were still maintaining a separate culture in the 60's and into the 90's. Carol Miller's first book, "Lola's Luck" was a moving memoir of her time immersed in the Machvaia group during their Heyday in California. I read The Church of Cheese to find out more about these remarkable people. As reference material, this book is rewarding in its detail. Her personal anecdotes and interviews animate and clarify the academic aspects. The Church of Cheese is important for illuminating the California Machvaia way of life at a pivotal time before and after their decline as a separate culture. Her immersion enabled Miller to record their lives and their culture with great compassion and depth.
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on August 20, 2014
excellent book documentary, a lot I know now.
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on November 29, 2015
Very interesting and easy to read.
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on February 3, 2012
You can never know the full extent of the rroma culture unless you are part of it! Carol was partially accepted by a few of the machiwana rroma. To the Kalderash, the main and dominant group of Rroma in the U.S., she was never accepted! We wouldn't even think of letting her explore our culture the way she did with those Adams Machiwia. It was true, in her book, that they think they are better than the Kalderasha, but they are so Americanized that their "gypsyness" will disappear within a few generations. During Carol's stay in San Francisco, she was avoided like the plague, no, like she was marime!, by the Kalderash. We don't have anything against her, she is just another gyji (non gypsy). If you want to get an insight into our culture, check out some of the writings of Ian Hancock, the Rroma professor of linguistics from Texas. Thanks folks.
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on February 23, 2012
As a person always fascinated with gypsy culture, this was a good starting point. The book has good insight and if you know about other cultures, you can make a clear comparison as many of their traditions reminded me of some family traditions in Latin America; however, there are many parts of the book that I found repetitive and I lost interest sometimes. I have nothing against the author, but I am not a huge fan of her writing style. That is a matter of preference though.
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