Review 1521: The Yellow House

The Yellow House is not just a memoir. It’s more an excavation of self and belonging. Sarah M. Broom centers her explorations around her childhood home in New Orleans East. She begins with what she knows of her grandparents’ lives and her parents’ before marrying. Then she tells how her mother, Ivory Mae, purchased the yellow house when she was 19, the first house owned by the family.

At the time of the purchase, 1961, New Orleans East was touted as a promising area for expansion of the city. However, this promise never unfolded. The story of the slow crumbling of the neighborhood and house, culminating in Hurricane Katrina, is a symbol of the disenfranchising of all the poor inhabitants of the city, particularly those of color.

Although Broom was living in New York at the time of the hurricane, many of her family members had to be evacuated, and two of her brothers chose to ride the storm out. The storm destroyed the house, but it also rendered the family physically and metaphorically homeless. Almost more excruciating is the catalog of incompetence and obliviousness to the needs of its citizens by the city of New Orleans after the storm.

This is an interesting and eye-opening memoir about the population of the city that is usually ignored, and of course, it has ramifications for all such populations in all such cities.

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11 thoughts on “Review 1521: The Yellow House

  1. Daedalus Lex June 23, 2020 / 10:37 am

    I was in Mid City New Orleans during and after Katrina. I remember how hard New Orleans East was hit. No communications and no one could get any status on their friends and family there. Sounds like a great book!

    • whatmeread June 23, 2020 / 10:40 am

      You should definitely read it, then. That must have been a traumatic experience. I had a cousin who was there for the whole thing and friends who had to leave right before things got really bad and were out of the state for months before they could go home. At the time, we lived in Austin, and our community absorbed a lot of the refugees.

      • Daedalus Lex June 23, 2020 / 10:46 am

        In my neighborhood the main problem in the days after was boredom, as we all shared food, stories, black and white kids in canoes taking people’s dogs to dry land in the park, etc. The most traumatic thing was when I hitchhiked to Houston and saw the TV images, which captured the traumatic aspects very well, but left out all the cross-racial camaraderie, resourcefulness, and good fellowship in so many neighborhoods. The East, though, they got it bad. Btw, Texans were enormously generous. After Houston, I hitchhiked to Austin where an old friend help me buy a used car (since my was flooded). Thanks 🙂

      • whatmeread June 23, 2020 / 12:13 pm

        I’m glad it wasn’t as bad for you.

  2. Daedalus Lex June 23, 2020 / 10:47 am

    Forgot to add. The Yellow House is on my list 🙂

  3. Fatma June 23, 2020 / 12:33 pm

    i love that you wrote that this was an “excavation of self and belonging” – ive had this on my TBR for so long, im glad to hear you enjoyed it! i wanna get to this one soon ☺

  4. Cynthia June 24, 2020 / 9:01 am

    This one is on my list, too. Sounds like you found it meaningful and interesting.

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