A brilliant, haunting and unforgettable memoir from a stunning new talent about the inexorable pull of home and family, set in a shotgun house in New Orleans East.
In 1961, Sarah M. Broom’s mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East and built her world inside of it. It was the height of the Space Race and the neighborhood was home to a major NASA plantthe postwar optimism seemed assured. Widowed, Ivory Mae remarried Sarah’s father Simon Broom; their combined family would eventually number twelve children. But after Simon died, six months after Sarah’s birth, the Yellow House would become Ivory Mae’s thirteenth and most unruly child.
A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house's entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the “Big Easy” of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power.
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Sarah M. Broom is a writer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker , The New York Times Magazine , The Oxford American , and O, The Oprah Magazine among others. A native New Orleanian, she received her Masters in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004. She was awarded a Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant in 2016 and was a finalist for the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction in 2011. She has also been awarded fellowships at Djerassi Resident Artists Program and The MacDowell Colony. She lives in New York state.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A very moving book about the author and her family.
On one level, “The Yellow House” by Sarah M. Broom is the story of one house in New Orleans East and the family who made it their home for over 40 years. But it is so much more—the story of the city of New Orleans and the ways it both burrows into its residents’ souls and betrays them and their loyalty over and over again; the story of the toll poverty and racism takes on black Americans; the story of Katrina and climate change and the catastrophic results of poor urban planning. “Remembering is a chair that it is hard to sit still in,” Broom writes, and yet she does so beautifully, taking the reader back to her family’s roots in the New Orleans of the early 20th century under Jim Crow and segregation, through her mother Ivory Mae’s marriages and her siblings’ births in the 50s and 60s and the purchase of what became known as “the yellow house” in 1961. These early sections are necessary for placing the story of the house within the context of the family, the city, and the times—and Ivory Mae is a compelling central character—but it is when Broom’s own narrative voice and memories take over following her birth in the waning hours of 1979 that “The Yellow House” really comes into its own. Broom’s descriptions of her childhood and particularly her memories of her childhood friend, Alvin—“Our relationship is so long that I cannot remember ever first meeting. He is hide-and-go-seek in wet summer air and five-cent Laffy Taffys with knock-knock jokes on the wrapper”—are both universal and unique to her, and are particularly poignant in light of Alvin’s early death, which Broom has already noted and which give these memories the air of elegy. No book about New Orleans covering the year 2005 can avoid mention of Hurricane Katrina, and “The Yellow House” is no exception, as Broom describes her family’s evacuation experiences and the harrowing stories of two of her brothers who chose to ride out the storm. These passages make the horror of Katrina and the incompetence of the rescue efforts viscerally real, but what I found more powerful was the narrative of her family’s exile and displacement in the hurricane’s aftermath that begins where most Katrina narratives end. The Yellow House, and Broom’s family’s sense of place and of belonging, were additional victims of Katrina, and the city’s Road Home program—a “massive failure for most applicants, a dead end, a procedural loop, bungled and exhausting, built to tire you out and make you throw up your hands”—takes 11 years to finally settle with Ivory Mae, a final betrayal which seems a fitting place to end “The Yellow House.” There’s so much more in this book that I can’t encompass in a review. Read it. Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Press for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.