WiDo Publishing (2021)
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (0/21)
Inequality is an issue that continues to consume us. Whether talking black versus white or rich versus poor, the reason why movies and TV shows, such as “Upstairs, Downstairs,” become successful is because people want to be allowed entrance into a realm they’ve never seen before. “Forbidden Brownstones” by Clifford Browder provides a character with an obsession to live in a luxurious place who will not stop until he has achieved his goal…no matter what obstacles are put in his way.
Junius Fox was born in New York City, the free-born son of a barber father held in high-esteem, and a mother who is a natural healer that many living in the poor black neighborhoods look to for help. It is quickly seen that Junius is not going to follow in his father’s footsteps, so he’s challenged to find a spot in the world that could one day provide him with the chance to get what he craves most. Junius has always been obsessed with the homes of wealthy white people known as “Brownstones,” and wants more than anything to climb some ladder of success to attain his own.
Readers follow Junius as he meets up with a fascinating brothel owner by the name of Madame Ida. He becomes her friend and butler and finds himself immersed in a situation where he can cozy up to the big shots of NYC. Throughout a time in history that covers the Civil War completely, Junius goes through many ups and downs, but always keeps his eye on the ultimate prize: owning a home that is rich, mysterious, and forbidden.
In this incredible book, the author took me back to my childhood. You see, I am a caretaker’s daughter who lived beside a grandiose mansion in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut. Every day, my father maintained the lawns and gardens, secured the home, and took care of what he referred to as “the big house” when the owners went back to NYC every Sunday night until their return every Friday evening. I certainly saw the differences between rich versus poor and noted how the problems of the rich differed with ours. This was so well-written, it resurrected the conversations I was privy to as a young girl that, at the time, were amazing. Yet, as I grew older, turned into something far more comical because the “woes” of the rich were not exactly, to me, “woes” whatsoever.
In addition, this author’s absolute love of New York City shines through. He speaks about these rows of Brownstones, amazing characters, and storylines with such intimacy that it feels almost like a ballet is playing out in front of your eyes. As beloved as his buildings are to him, that is how I feel when I see the regal Patience and Fortitude outside the NYPL welcoming people into one of the most exciting buildings ever erected. No matter what journey you’re looking to undertake, this author provides love, drama, mystery, action, death, prejudice, and unforgettable emotion.