Reviews for Yellow House

by Sarah M. Broom

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Broom reassembles her sizable family tree, damaged by time and uprooted by Hurricane Katrina.As the author suggests in her debut book, her clan's tempest-tossed experience was practically predetermined. She was raised in New Orleans East, an especially swampy section of the city so poor and distant from the city's romantic center that it never appeared on tourist maps. In 1961, when Broom's mother purchased the house of the title, it was hyped as a boomtown "involving men and money and wetlands, dreaming and draining and emergence and fate." But rapid development covered up a multitude of municipal sins that emerged once the rains came. (The title refers in part to the yellow aluminum siding that cloaked rotting wood beneath.) The youngest of 12 siblings and half siblings, Broom knew much of her family only via lore and later research (her father died six months after her birth), which gives this book the feel of a heartfelt but unflinching recovery project. In the early portions, the author describes her family's hard living (her mother was widowed twice) and the region's fickle economy and institutional racism. Private school gave Broom a means of escapeshe lived in New York working for O, the Oprah Magazine, when Katrina struckbut she returned to reckon with "the psychic cost of defining oneself by the place where you are from." As family members were relocated around the country, she scrambled to locate and assist them, kept tabs on the house, and took a well-intentioned but disillusioning job as a speechwriter for controversial New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, insincerely hyping the city's progress. 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. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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Broom presents a great, multigenerational family story in her debut memoir. At its center is Broom's dilapidated childhood home-a source of both division and unity in the family. Broom's mother, Ivory Mae, bought the house, located in New Orleans East, in 1961; the budding area then succumbed to poverty and crime in the late 1980s. Broom connects the house's physical decline to the death in 1980 of her father, Simon, who left many unfinished repair projects. The house had a precarious staircase, electrical problems, and holes that attracted rodents and cockroaches. Broom recalls living in an increasingly unwelcoming environment: "When would the rats come out from underneath the sink?" she wonders. Broom eventually left New Orleans-she attended college in Texas and got a job in New York-but returned after Hurricane Katrina. Through interviews with her brother, Carl, she vividly relays Katrina's impact on families. 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. (Aug.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal
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This ambitious, haunting memoir of home, movement, displacement, loss, and persistence allows Broom to offer an intimate, closely observed history of her family over nearly a hundred years. At its center is the author's mother, Ivory Mae Broom, who at 19, already a widow and mother of three, purchased the titular house in 1961 in industrial, impoverished New Orleans East, a world away from the French Quarter. Ivory Mae would raise 12 children there, of whom Broom is the youngest. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina rendered the Yellow House uninhabitable, magnified the racial inequities woven into New Orleans, and further scattered the already dispersed Broom family. This scattering included for the author a sojourn in Burundi and a brief stint back in New Orleans as a speechwriter for beleaguered mayor Ray Nagan; neither fulfilling, but both germane to what had become a quest for the essence of relationship and place. Though largely a linear narrative, this debut memoir feels collage-like—impressionistic, cumulative, multisensory—imbued with ambivalence about leaving and wonder at the pull of home. VERDICT Recommended for all who enjoy family history or care to explore beyond the surface of place. [See Prepub Alert, 2/11/19.]—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Remembering is a chair that is hard to sit still in, muses Broom, a Whiting Foundation grant recipient. Indeed, though centered around the titular family home before and after Hurricane Katrina, Broom's peripatetic narrative reflects the wanderings of all those displaced and disconnected by the Water. Broom is blunt about the callous incompetence Katrina survivors faced. Although UN policy gives those displaced through natural disaster the human right to return to their communities, the New Orleans director of recovery management openly mocks returning Black residents as buffoons. The Federal Road Home program never paid them enough to live in newly gentrified areas. Broom notes of the pre-Katrina community stability, only a small fraction of New Orleans ever left for elsewhere. Katrina is a community and family tragedy. Broom's siblings are scattered across the country; her Alzheimer's-afflicted grandmother, lost for a month after a sloppy nursing home evacuation, dies shortly after being recovered, and the damaged family home is condemned. Yet Broom's family is stronger than any house. A moving tribute to family and a powerful indictment of societal indifference.--Lesley Williams Copyright 2019 Booklist