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Best Gay Romance Novels: 'The Yellow Brownstone' Book Review

by Anna M. Rowe

by Lisa K. Stephenson

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book as good as this one. No, I am not joking. It was like reading through a movie script—very easy to grasp and the character development is literally a chef’s kiss! It’s hard for any author to create characters that the readers can immediately connect with—even the antagonist if there is one.


In this case, I would say it’s Irving’s mother. However, no matter how hard I tried to dislike her for what happened with Irving, I could not help but pity her as well. She was deceived, mislead, abused, and dare I say it, emotionally abandoned. Irving’s mother deteriorates in front of our very eyes and there is no one to save her; she was lifeless before taking her life.


With it being Pride month, I wanted to read a few books that take on the perspective of a member of the community. Of all the books I read, this one did not disappoint—it was by far my favorite.



The novel opens with a young Irving kicking up rocks after finding himself on the receiving end of some blows from the school bully. But the torture doesn’t stop there when he goes home to his rodent-infested household where his mother is preparing a meal for his father. Irving is emotionally neglected, forced to spend time outside, and must have his meals on the unkempt floors.


One night his father catches him locking lips with a neighbor's son and is livid. This kickstarts a chain of events. Upon the passing of his mother, his father’s wife and their daughters become aware of his existence. Irving’s dad has managed to keep Irving and his mother a secret from his wife for years.


Now forced to raise a son fathered outside of their marriage, Nyema does her best but is overpowered by grief and chronic sadness. Marvin, Irving’s dad does not show compassion for his wife; later on taking his anger out on Irving, who after some time is taken into the foster care system when he is discovered to have been beaten nearly to an inch of his life. The Yellow Brownstone meticulously takes us through the life of Irving without missing a step. I found myself bawling as I turned the pages hoping for there to be some relief on the subsequent sheets.


And there was…


The story is gut-wrenching and a prime example of how living in your truth is just easier said than done, especially with the depiction of his homosexuality being demonized in the African American community. There are many things at play—Irving is a Black male living in the New York City projects, destitute and severely abused by those around him. It is not until he is recused by a White woman who puts him in the top schools to change not only his peers, but his mentors does he go on to become a success story.


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We see this many times in films, where the White male or female plays the savior for some lost and poor African American kid helping them to reframe their lives for the better. Films like ‘The Blind Side’ and ‘Losing Isaiah’ are clear depictions of this. We even see this in real life with celebrities like Madonna and Angelina Jolie who have adopted children from various races to raise in a lap of luxury. I did email the author asking for her to possibly write something on the other end—a White child saved by an African American man or woman. I think the world needs that and it would be refreshing to see and read.


As with The Yellow Brownstone, it is not until Irving is adopted by his case worker, Rose, that we see a significant improvement in his life. Lisa did an incredible amount of research for this novel and it shows—Irving’s journey to the White House is nothing short of impeccable writing. I learned so much while reading this. I got a whole history lesson through this channel of fictional entertainment and it was done so well that I did not even realize it was happening. It was not until I arrived at a book group where the novel was being discussed, that I, among many others shared this sentiment.


I don’t want to give away too much of this wonderful story, so if you want something new and entertaining to read this summer, add The Yellow Brownstone to your list, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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