June 13, 2024



BOOK CLUB: Begonia Brown: A Philadelphia Story

3 min read

By Julia Press Simmons

From the author of Strawberry Mansion comes the tale of Begonia Brown. Raised in the unforgiving streets of North Philadelphia, Begonia is undoubtedly a product of her environment: young, ruthless, and criminally minded.

Begonia’s carefree world has been turned upside down. Forced to become the head of her household, she has to trade her paintbrush in for a switchblade and her love of art into a love affair with the hood. Lying, stealing, and turning tricks, Begonia will do any and everything she can to protect her sisters from the ugliness of the world. However, it just isn’t enough…

Begonia is caught between the hard knocks of the streets and the nightmare of her home life. Her younger sister, Violet, desperate to escape the hell her life has become, is seduced by an up-and-coming corner boy. Meanwhile, their baby sister Daisy is riddled with a disease that could be fatal if not cared for. Come along for Begonia’s journey as she picks up the pieces of a life in shambles.


I was sick when I started to write the book. I lived in Harrisburg with my ex-husband. We were struggling financially, facing eviction, and our marriage was coming to an end (although neither of us realized this at the time)

I smoked cigarettes and drank way too much alcohol (I hid the drinking) I was home sick and so lonely. I turned to food for comfort, and I gained 70lbs to my staggering 240lb five-foot 2-inch frame.

I was so hurt… I smiled and joked to hide it, but it was killing me. My diabetes went out of control and I learned that sneaky little disease came with brutal side effects.

This was the back drop to this novel. I cried when I sat down to write it. It filled up notebooks while I struggled to keep my little publishing company floating. When you read the book you will feel my pain, because I gave it all to her. Begonia was the outlet. I gave all of my pain to her, every last drop.

I was evicted out of my apartment in Feb 2009… well, I can’t articulate the feeling of failure and self-hate this brought a long, so I won’t even try. I had to move in with my in-laws and work 16 hrs. a day, every day with a cold that morphed into bronchitis that turned into pneumonia to get back on my feet. I bought a house in a month but the damage I did to my body to achieve that little feet still lingers today.

I was back and forth in the hospital…

drinking constantly…

and writing daily…

I had a story to tell. Begonia Brown became my escape… she was my best friend… she was strong through her trials… I was weak. I needed her…

On June 19th I came home to Philadelphia with nothing more than the clothes on my back.

I was sick, could barely walk. My mother had to feed me and bathe me like I was an infant. My best friend Shaconna took care of me when my mother could not. I hardly had the strength to write.

However, when I did… it was pure fire.

It could not have made it to print without the following people (angels)

Junnita Jackson… my friend who made the cover (over and over again… sorry Junnita lol)

Nora Gruenburg … my editor that is worth her weight in gold, platinum, and titanium.

Madonna aka Sankofa the poet… who typed the bulk of it

and my son… who woke me up to write when depression held me hostage in my own bed.

In October of 2009 I recieved my divorce papers in the mail, and sent Begonia Brown to the printer…

It is what it is…


In 2023 I signed a multibook deal with Urban Books. Begonia Brown has been re-edited and combined with Violet it is available NOW!

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