The Yellow House: A Memoir
I've been meaning to read this National Book Award winner for a while. In her unique memoir, Broom writes about family, race, and class by noting the intersections of her family's history and the history of New Orleans. After reading about her process, this thoughtfully-structured book moved to the top of my To Be Read list. Broom says, “I knew when I started collecting evidence, so to speak, that I was trying to find the architecture of the book...I needed to know where the beams were and what was the supporting wall. I literally thought of it as a house because I knew that I was trying to put a lot in it.”
Winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction
A New York Times Bestseller
Named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review
Named one of the “10 Best Books of 2019” by the New York Times Book Review, Seattle Times, Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Tribune, and Slate
Named a Best Book of 2019 by the Washington Post, NPR’s Book Concierge, NPR’s Fresh Air, the Guardian, BookPage, New York Public Library, and Shelf Awareness
Named a Best Memoir of the Decade by LitHub
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 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 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.