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The Yellow House Reviews

The Yellow House by Sarah M Broom

The Yellow House

Sarah M Broom

4.11 out of 5

5 reviews

Imprint: Grove Press
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication date: 13 Aug 2019
ISBN: 9780802125088

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.

  • The ObserverBook of the Week
4 stars out of 5
Casey Gerald
26 Jul 2020

"With The Yellow House, Sarah Broom has shown us a way to go back home, perhaps to heal"

The Yellow House is a work that refuses to capitulate to your impatience – not out of an arrogant self-indulgence, but out of care. She seems to say: You will not get your entertainment at my people’s expense. This strikes me as rare, even brave. Many writers, or at least this writer, feel alienated from their family. But here is a writer who appears fully enmeshed in a family, in a clan, a system of interdependence and responsibility. One of the remarkable traits of The Yellow House, which makes it something larger than a personal narrative, is that the story is not fashioned from Broom’s voice alone. 

Reviews

3 stars out of 5
3 Jan 2021

"The first section of The Yellow House is gloriously written history, made intimate and vital by the voices of Broom’s older relatives"

Research and anecdote are both shallower in the later part of the book, giving way to a vague and guarded introspection. There are difficulties inherent to writing memoir before the age of forty. But the stories of Broom’s family are piercing even in outline: for eleven years, one brother continued to hang out on the plot where the Yellow House had stood, mowing the empty lawn and drinking beers at a small table under the fizzling streetlights, waiting for Louisiana to buy out the land. And Broom’s mother is last seen settled with relatives, but “still hoping one day to have my own house, a personal house for Ivory”.

3 stars out of 5
13 Aug 2020

"Sarah M Broom fashions a dynamic archive in this timely book"

The Yellow House is not a book to consult for political prescriptions. At times it might leave the reader wondering whether the inner workings of municipal governance could ever really be elusive to quite the degree that Broom suggests.

Without any outline of the nature of relations between the state and private enterprise, her conclusions about what ought to have been done differently can seem merely wishful. But the memoir remains an engrossing account of the concrete realities, and dangerous chimeras, of what its author resonantly calls “an unequal, masquerading world”.

5 stars out of 5
Victoria Segal
2 Aug 2020

"A family memoir that comes with the access-all-areas intimacy of the best reportage"

In precise, dovetail-jointed sentences Broom writes beautifully about interior spaces of all kinds. The house comes alive, but so too, for example, does the psychology behind her grandmother’s impeccable appearance: “Sometimes elegance is just … a way to keep the flailing parts of the self together.” She resists the picturesque, describing instead the crime and police corruption of 1990s New Orleans. There is an unflinching clarity, especially as she details the house’s decline. Cockroaches move in, while rats with a taste for symbolism eat a sash she was awarded at school for academic achievement.

4 stars out of 5
1 Aug 2020

"Katrina may have felled the Yellow House, but it was built on rotten foundations"

When Broom returned to New Orleans to research the book, one of her brothers feared that the project would ‘disrupt, unravel and tear down everything the Broom family has ever built’. By reconstructing the house with words, however, Broom not only shores up her family history but reclaims an ancestral narrative. ‘Who has the rights to the story of a place? she asks. Part oral history, part urban investigation, The Yellow House goes beyond the perimeters of memoir: it is an exposition of the fault lines under the American dream.