A New York Times Best Seller
Winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction
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 12 children. But after Simon died, six months after Sarah’s birth, the Yellow House would become Ivory Mae’s 13th 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.
Copyright 2019 by Sarah M. Broom. Recorded by arrangement with Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. Kei Miller, excerpt from The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet Press Ltd); Peter Turchi, excerpt from Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer (Trinity University Press); excerpt from The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, translated by Maria Jolas, copyright 1958 by Presses Universitaires de France, translation copyright 1964 by Penguin Random House LLC. Used by permission of Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved; Tracy K. Smith, excerpt from “Ash” from Wade in the Water. Originally from the New Yorker (November 23, 2015). Copyright 2015, 2018 by Tracy K. Smith. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, graywolfpress.org; LeAlan Jones, Public Domain; Yance Ford, excerpt from the film Strong Island; John Milton, excerpt from Paradise Lost. Public Domain; Unified New Orleans Plan, Public Domain; Lil Wayne, excerpt from AllHipHop.com interview in early 2006; Adrienne Rich, the lines from “Diving into the Wreck”. Copyright 2016 by the Adrienne Rich Literary Trust. Copyright 1973 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., from Collected Poems: 1950-2012 by Adrienne Rich. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc; Joan Didion, excerpt from “In the Islands” from The White Album by Joan Didion. Copyright 1979 by Joan Didion. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Sam Hamill, excerpt from Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics).
The Yellow House
This memoir addresses an important topic. I found the stories about the author’s family fascinating. The writing has an analytical, intellectual tone, which made it difficult to read at times. There was too much telling and not enough showing. However, the way Black residents snd Black neighborhoods in New Orleans were treated was vividly presented from many angles.