Steve Bernstein brings us seven stories from his life in the Bronx in New York. A memoir that gives us a unique view of how it was to live and witness the changes in a mixed racial community during the tumultuous 1960s. His stories are well written and add storytelling depth beyond what I’ve experienced in most memoirs.
“The stoop is where all life, both inside and out, plays out for me. It’s the place at night when the junkies are gone and the traffic is quiet, the sirens stop, and people are shut in and it’s dark and the dogs keep still, when I very, very occasionally have some moments of peace.”
Steve lived in the Projects in South Bronx in his early days, with his younger brother, older sister, disconnected mother and alcoholic father. Life is harsh in terms of resources and even harsher in the communities where gangs are always vicious and intimidating. His one great friend from his early childhood was Anthony, a black boy three years older. Anthony taught Steve basketball and they learned to challenge other kids on the court. Steve was unique in his South Bronx neighbourhood because he was the only white kid. Each story brings out a milestone event in Steve’s life, which is descriptively poignant. These moments illustrate the social conditions and accepted boundaries which Steve obviously ignored having a black best friend, a Puerto Rican girlfriend and a connection to the black community.
“When I got to Allerton Avenue, the “white” neighborhood where my mother moved us after my dad got stabbed, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In the old neighborhood on Sheridan Avenue in the South Bronx, I was the only white kid, yet I dared to have a Puerto Rican girlfriend and I never ever backed down from a fight. Sure, I felt alienated at times, but I also felt at home. I felt at home with people of color. I felt at home with gangs. I felt at home hanging out on the stoop. I had soul and salsa, and basketball in my blood. In the white neighborhood, I had none of that. And no real stoops.”
Some of the stories didn’t really connect with me and the book started slowly and indifferent but as the novel progressed the content became much more appealing and relevant to the historical setting, especially during the period of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
This is an intriguing story and always great to read about the lives of people from a totally different background to my own. I would recommend reading this book and I’d like to thank Steve Bernstein for providing me with a copy of his book in return for an honest review.