The Yellow House: A Memoir (2019 National Book Award Winner)
DescriptionA NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Winner of the 2019 National Book Award in 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 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.
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About the Author
Praise for The Yellow House
Winner of the 2019 National Book Award in Nonfiction
"[An] extraordinary, engrossing debut . . . kinetic and omnivorous . . . [Broom] pushes past the baseline expectations of memoir as a genre to create an entertaining and inventive amalgamation of literary forms. Part oral history, part urban history, part celebration of a bygone way of life, The Yellow House is a full indictment of the greed, discrimination, indifference and poor city planning that led her family's home to be wiped off the map. It is an instantly essential text, examining the past, present and possible future of the city of New Orleans, and of America writ large."--New York Times Book Review
"[A] forceful, rolling and many-chambered new memoir.... [Broom's] memoir isn't just a Katrina story -- it has a lot more on its mind. But the storm and the way it scattered her large family across America give this book both its grease and its gravitas.... This book is dense with characters and stories. It's a big, simmering pot that comes to a boil at the right times.... This is a major book that I suspect will come to be considered among the essential memoirs of this vexing decade. There are a lot of complicated emotions coursing through its veins. It throws the image of an exceptional American city into dark relief."--New York Times
"The memoir from Louisiana native Broom tells the story of her mother's beloved shotgun house in east New Orleans and the family she raised there. The house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and Broom writes about the racial and economic inequality that has haunted New Orleans for decades. Author Heidi Julavits called the book "a masterpiece of history, politics, sociology and memory."--Los Angeles Times, "7 Highly Anticipated Books to Get You Through the Dog Days of August"
"Broom's book is a memoir -- but also so much more. The New Orleans native has written a hybrid of the most exquisite kind, part family history, part archaeological dig, part self-exegesis. It all comes back to the house of the title, a "New Orleans East" shotgun dwelling that has given hope, heartbreak, shelter and transformation to decades of Broom's family. And Broom has used it to inspire something new."--Washington Post, "The 10 Books to Read in August"
"I'm most excited about reading The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom. I tend to love books that capture a sense of place, and I've always been fascinated with New Orleans. Like Jamaica, New Orleans is a destination people seek out to have a good time, but few people see the reality behind the touristy facade. Very rarely do I see a story of the people who have been in New Orleans for generations--this memoir promises an intimate, beautiful portrait of a black family and the place they call home."--Nicole Dennis-Benn in Vanity Fair
"A remarkable journey...Her tale is one of loss, love, and resilience."--Robin Roberts, Good Morning America
"Sarah M. Broom's gorgeous debut, The Yellow House, reads as elegy and prayer. The titular house is the fulcrum for Broom's memoir about her large and complex family. Perhaps more important, it stands in for the countless ways America has failed and continues to fail African Americans...Sarah M. Broom is a writer of great intellect and breadth. She embraces momentous subjects. The Yellow House is about the relentless divestment of wealth from the African American family no matter how hard its members work; and our government's failure to protect its poor from predictable environmental catastrophe and subsequent trauma; and our gross neglect of poor neighborhoods; and sham promises that never materialize or are broken too easily, and the papering over of deep systemic problems by politicians and we the people. The Yellow House is also about the persistence of love and grit...There's a young woman whose winding journey takes her away from and back to her family, as she circumnavigates the world in order to connect with herself -- which means coming to the sober reckoning that some holes can never be filled."--NPR
"One of the year's best memoirs, The Yellow House finds an epic, fascinating, empathetic history of New Orleans within the life of one woman, her family, and the home they grew up in...The book is at once intimate and sprawling, spinning at times dozens of stories in what amounts to a vital reframing of a misrepresented community, and an urgent meditation on the American dream."--David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly
"The title of Sarah M. Broom's debut memoir refers to the east New Orleans home her mother bought in 1961. There, Broom was raised alongside her 11 siblings in a part of the city that became riddled with crime and poverty. In The Yellow House, Broom traces back a hundred years worth of her family history and the hardships they faced. She pays particular attention to Hurricane Katrina, which completely destroyed the family's house. In its aftermath, Broom examines what it really means to rebuild roots and how to define a home."--Time, "Here Are the 11 New Books You Should Read in August"
"Broom's memoir of poverty, striving, and justice in pre and post-Katrina-stricken New Orleans concerns rising tides, the literal ones that took her childhood home, and the structural ones, too, that, instead of lifting all, are threatening to drown. Broom has a reporter's eye but an essayist's heart, blending urban history of her segregated home city and her family's attempt to survive in it."--Vogue
"NOLA Darling, Sarah M. Broom's obsession with her childhood home in New Orleans is the focal point of her intimate nonfiction debut...This brave work delves into such issues as poor housing, subpar health care, family bonds, personal erasure and survival."--Essence
"In her tough yet tenderly wrought book The Yellow House, [Broom] explores ... the long-term effects of erasure and the price of staking a claim on unpredictable territory.... The label 'memoir' doesn't quite contain--or honor--the entirety of what Broom has accomplished. The Yellow House is both personal and sharply political; it's an attempt to redraw not just the map of New Orleans but also the city's narrative--to reset it on its foundation...Meticulously observed and expansively researched, Broom's inquiry is an excavation...She plunges into the family's deep, uncertain history; stories pieced together about her maternal grandmother Ameilia ('Lolo'), her Auntie Elaine and her mother, Ivory Mae, are touchstones, pins in the new map...These elder voices, thick with the rhythm and texture of time and place, are a chorus of narrators, the forebears who navigated a stratified, racially segregated map. They weigh in, testify, spin tangents. It's the book's music...In New Orleans, there is a parade call-and-response refrain--a funky roll call, if you will--that asks revelers to shout out their provenance--the New Orleans neighborhood from which they hail. Where you from? The Yellow House is Broom's luminous, literary answer to that appeal...Broom's work is a shoring-up, a strengthening. It's the result of tenacious naming and claiming, revisiting all the histories--formal and informal, polished and rough. She worked with great care, and with a resolute honesty leavened with grace. Readers may hear echoes of James Baldwin in the relentlessness of her inquiry, and in the sinewy cadences of her sentences...Pared down to its studs, The Yellow House is a love story. It is a declaration of unconditional devotion and commitment to place. Broom also pays homage to the relationships we protect, the ones we yearn for and circle back to; the ones that hold us and don't give up on us, that are our living and breathing foundation."--Los Angeles Times
"Sarah M. Broom's book is an extraordinary example of how language can make things. Her words, sentences, thoughts as she creates East New Orleans--where she was born--move faster than you will ever keep up--but you damn sure don't want to let go."--John Edgar Wideman, author of Writing to Save A Life: The Louis Till Project
"Every few years, a book comes along that teaches readers of memoir how to read and writers of memoir how to write. Calling Sarah M. Broom's The Yellow House a memoir feels wrong. Somehow, Broom created a book that feels bigger, finer, more daring than the form itself. The Yellow House literally taught me how to read and write. I will never write or read about family, longing, blackness, femininity, joy and state-sanctioned terror the same way after sitting with this book. Broom narratively glides through choppy air almost in slow-motion, and when I least expect it, she digs into the ground of New Orleans conjuring the most humanely massive intervention I've read in 21st century memoir writing."--Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
"A great, multigenerational family story . . . Broom is an engaging guide; she has some of David Simon's effortless reporting style, and her meditations on eroding places recall Jeannette Walls. The house didn't survive Katrina, but its destruction strengthened Broom's appreciation of home. Broom's memoir serves as a touching tribute to family and a unique exploration of the American experience."--Publishers Weekly
"The Yellow House is a masterpiece of history, politics, sociology and memory. Actually, it's just a masterpiece, period. Sarah M. Broom's carefully researched portrait of a family and a place possesses the emotional vastness of a multi-generational novel, and shies away from nothing. Her pages are artfully controlled, meditative logic proofs of heartbreak, humor, devastation, celebration and rage. Broom shows what literary nonfiction--and what books--can yet do and be. I already consider her to be one of America's most important and influential writers."--Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock
"Gorgeously written, intimate and wise, Sarah M. Broom's The Yellow House is an astonishing memoir of family, love, and survival. It's also a history of New Orleans unlike any we've seen before, one that should be required reading."--Jami Attenberg, author of All Grown Up
"A heartfelt but unflinching recovery project . . . Broom's lyrical style celebrates her family bonds, but a righteous fury runs throughout the narrative at New Orleans' injustices, from the foundation on up. A tribute to the multitude of stories one small home can contain, even one bursting with loss."--Kirkus Reviews
"From a singular writer, a crucial memoir of life on the margins--one that, through ruthless observation and deepest intelligence, might help reintegrate what happens in those margins into the central narratives of American life. Alternating gracefully between immediacy and critical distance, she leaves us with deep insight not just into her own family, her own community, but into governance, justice, and inequality in the round. Timeless in its telling, The Yellow House could become a modern classic."--Whiting Nonfiction Grant Jury