The Yellow House: A Memoir

The Yellow House: A Memoir

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 plant--the postwar optimism seemed assured. Widowed, Ivory Mae remarried Sarah's father Simon Broom; their combined family would eventuall...

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Title:The Yellow House: A Memoir
Author:Sarah M. Broom
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The Yellow House: A Memoir Reviews

  • Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.

    In 1961, Sarah M. Broom’s mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighbourhood of New Orleans East and built her world inside of it. It was the height of the Space Race and the neighbourhood was home to a major NASA plant—the postwar optimism seemed assured. Widowed, I

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.

    In 1961, Sarah M. Broom’s mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighbourhood of New Orleans East and built her world inside of it. It was the height of the Space Race and the neighbourhood was home to a major NASA plant—the 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 the 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.

    The only great thing about chicken pox at age 52 (and being a speed reader) is you can read and review four books a day..and this was an excellent book to have spent an hour or two (or many more on your side) with.

    I do love New Orleans and when we go (14 trips and counting), we go way off the beaten trail as I am a photography nut and love shooting shotgun houses (well, THAT WAS AN INTERESTING THING TO SAY!)..on my camera. My husband has been sometimes been scared of some of the places we go, but as long as you have guts, politeness and bravado you need not worry IMHO. By the way, if you are curious like I am and oy look for images of said Yellow House you will find a number of B&Bs but this NEW YORKER article is about the house ...

    This book is a love song to New Orlean's unbeaten tails, history, loss, hurricanes before and including Katrina and the cities undying, never-ending pull on its citizens and their amazing, differing histories. There is more to NOLA than Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, drinking until you pass out and amazing food and Sarah Broom has written a love song to the city of her heritage. It is just amazing and will be a #BOOKCLUBPICK for seven upcoming club's read this autumn.

    As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use on Instagram and Twitter) so let's give it ⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️

    BTW, if you look for images of said Yellow House you will find a number of B&Bs but this "New Yorker" article is about the house ...

    Read the article as it is a precursor to this book. (Its images are on my facebook review).

  • Never Without a Book™

    I loved every bit of this story, Its engrossing and funny. I promise you won’t want to put this one down. It’s a must read.

  • Lisa Taddeo

    Masterful. Large-scale and granular at once. Quietly stunning prose. Wow.

  • Mary

    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

    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.

  • Lynn

    This memoir is about a family, a city (New Orleans) and a storm (Katrina). A closer look reveals an additional story about race, class, and identity. Closer still exposes how the US consistently fails and marginalizes poor black families. Katrina is simply one large link in a rusty, poorly maintained, unwieldy chain that is Black America. This is a phenomenal and artfully written book. The author deftly tells her family’s story which is deeply embedded in New Orleans, their neighborhood, and “Th

    This memoir is about a family, a city (New Orleans) and a storm (Katrina). A closer look reveals an additional story about race, class, and identity. Closer still exposes how the US consistently fails and marginalizes poor black families. Katrina is simply one large link in a rusty, poorly maintained, unwieldy chain that is Black America. This is a phenomenal and artfully written book. The author deftly tells her family’s story which is deeply embedded in New Orleans, their neighborhood, and “The Yellow House” which housed 12 children and their mother Ivory Mae.

  • Nancy Oakes

    I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hence a big fat five stars, and were there more I would give those as well. It is beyond excellent, poignant, funny at times but always very down to earth and real; it is a book that deserves any and all awards that may come its way in the future.

    is genuinely that good.

    just read the blog post.

  • Melissa Dee

    The Yellow House is the central character in this book. The house Sarah Broom grew up in, was destroyed in Katrina, and before and afterwards continues to be a central pole in her life. Broom’s large and complex family with its multi-generational brothers, sisters, aunties and cousins, lived in New Orleans East. Largely abandoned by the city government in favor of the tourist drawing French Quarter, her neighborhood was disproportionately impacted by Katrina. While her family physically survived

    The Yellow House is the central character in this book. The house Sarah Broom grew up in, was destroyed in Katrina, and before and afterwards continues to be a central pole in her life. Broom’s large and complex family with its multi-generational brothers, sisters, aunties and cousins, lived in New Orleans East. Largely abandoned by the city government in favor of the tourist drawing French Quarter, her neighborhood was disproportionately impacted by Katrina. While her family physically survived the hurricane and its aftermath, its effects were profound and long-lasting.

    I was fascinated by this modern history of New Orleans.

    I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  • Obsidian

    Well cutting to the chase I really didn't like this one. I was all ready to fall in love with a nonfiction story where the author talks about her family living in New Orleans East. A place that I have never heard about. Instead the big jumps around a lot and Broom at times talks about her family as if they were these people she doesn't know. I kept getting confused everytime she talked about Simon Broom

    Well cutting to the chase I really didn't like this one. I was all ready to fall in love with a nonfiction story where the author talks about her family living in New Orleans East. A place that I have never heard about. Instead the big jumps around a lot and Broom at times talks about her family as if they were these people she doesn't know. I kept getting confused everytime she talked about Simon Broom (her father) in a what I would call historical tone. Due to this I really didn't get any type of emotion from her while reading this. The book turns into something more when she recounts Katrina and how scared she was for her brothers and mother. But by then I felt myself just going through the motions to finish this one up. I ended up bouncing to other books to finish in order to just put this one aside. I started it weeks ago and just could not get into this. The ending was perplexing and read as unfinished, at least to me. There is a reason why I tend to not review memoirs. I always feel badly if I don't like the book the author puts out since then in a way that makes it seem like I dislike them. I think the only memoirs besides this one this year that I read was just Tan France's book. And reading this one reminds me why I stay away from memoirs especially when they read like this.

    "The Yellow House" tells the story of Sarah Broom's family growing up in a yellow house in New Orleans East. Through a long winding road we get into Sarah's mother's family and father's family and how they ended up meeting and having I think children together. Sarah ends up being the 13th child born to her mother and father and does not get to know him since he died several months after she was born. From there we have Sarah talking about relatives, friends, her brothers, sister, her mother, etc. She sometimes will call them brother, sister, or mother or other times talk about them in a totally removed voice. Sarah tries to leave New Orleans East behind, but she feels it pull her when she goes off to places like New York. When Katrina hits she finds herself wanting to be back in the city, but she has moved on from New Orleans East to the French Quarter properly where her family does not feel as if they fit in.

    The writing I thought was too technical and dry. I was glad that Broom included pictures to break up the book. At times I don't know what Broom was going for. Was she trying to write a history book or was she trying to provide commentary on New Orleans East. And sometimes she would get into crime and statics and how bad New Orleans (French Quarter) had gotten. She would jump around from paragraph to paragraph. When she gets into when she leaves the country for Burundi (I think, sorry reading these ARCS is a pain since I have a hard time trying to search later) the book turns into something else and I just scratched my head.

    The flow was awful from beginning to end. I think if the book was more focused it would have resonated more. At times she seems to want to upbraid her father for not finishing the Yellow House so that the family could live there and not be ashamed of it. Other times she is angry that the family is ashamed of the house and can't have close friendships with others because of it. I just maybe went seriously and was baffled. My parents house was not a showcase and my dad was constantly knocking down a wall and we were dealing with construction here and there. I remember living with plastic hanging from the wall between the living room and entryway for about 5 years. My friends came over all of the time. So did my brothers and relatives. I guess our family just didn't care? I don't know. I think that I get the importance of owning your own home and having something that is yours and how important that is to African Americans especially when the housing market fell out and everyone owed money on a home they could no longer afford. I just wish that had been more of the story.

    The setting of New Orleans East surprised me. I had no idea such a place existed. I wanted to read more of the history of that place. Too bad most of the history books I saw were just about the French Quarter.

    The ending was puzzling. I don't know what Broom was going for there at all.

  • Martha Toll

    Here's my review for NPR Books

  • Stacey A.  Prose and Palate

    Say the words “New Orleans” to people and images of Mardi Gras, beignets, jazz, voodoo, second lines, eclectic art and Saints football immediately spring to mind. It is a city that is visited by millions of tourists a year and has been the musical and literary muse for countless artists and writers. Past the hustle and bustle of Jackson Square and the Cathedral in the famous French Quarter, heading out East on I-10, is a part of New Orleans that doesn’t make the travel brochures and tour bus sto

    Say the words “New Orleans” to people and images of Mardi Gras, beignets, jazz, voodoo, second lines, eclectic art and Saints football immediately spring to mind. It is a city that is visited by millions of tourists a year and has been the musical and literary muse for countless artists and writers. Past the hustle and bustle of Jackson Square and the Cathedral in the famous French Quarter, heading out East on I-10, is a part of New Orleans that doesn’t make the travel brochures and tour bus stops. There are no great literary works to browse on the shelves in bookstores telling the stories about the area and the people that call New Orleans East home. Until now.

    Part history lesson, part memoir, 100 percent unforgettable, The Yellow House is a look at the lives of Sarah Broom’s family members as well as a powerful call out of a city, state and government plagued with corruption and systemic racism. It is a story about home, identity, and family - filled with writing that alternates from a sharp, seasoned reporter to that of a woman running – seeking answers from the offices of Oprah Magazine in New York City to the mountains of Burundi after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina - attempting to place “what happened in New Orleans in a more global context to understand how loss, danger, and forced migration play out in other parts of the world.” Throughout her book, Broom has expertly managed to walk the line between investigative journalist and displaced daughter and what she has given us within the pages of her story fills a void in Southern literature that has been sorely lacking in contemporary voice. •

    Huge thank you to Octavia Books who had early stock of this mighty work and were kind enough to ship it out to me last week. I am still attempting to gather my thoughts to write an adequate, comprehensive review (there is so much more to unpack and cover - I went through two pads of book tabs). The Yellow House is out today and I wanted to be sure that it was on your radar. All the stars.

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