By Julia Guerrein, Editor-in-Chief
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom, published in 2019, draws you in with its language—whether Broom is describing her family, the home that held them for so long, or her struggle to figure out where she belongs.
Broom details the story of her family from two generations prior, takes us through her mother’s life with her first husband and with Broom’s father, Simon. Broom looks back into the history of development of New Orleans and how developers pushed black families aside. This exploration of the history of her family builds a foundation for Broom to tell her readers about her life.
Finally, Broom arrives into the world to tell her own part of the story. As the youngest of twelve, Broom’s life story contains portraits of her siblings as they grow up together and venture into adulthood.
In describing her childhood in New Orleans, Broom paints a picture of how people love and leave the place they are from. Despite seeking opportunity elsewhere, Broom constantly is reevaluating where she belongs. Her longing to figure out where home is takes her from New Orleans to Texas, California, New York City, the little-known African country Burundi, back to New Orleans, and many other places along the way.
To further complicate her mixed feelings about home, Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans. Although Broom was not in New Orleans during Katrina, she tells the story from the point-of-view of her family members that were there. Through her descriptions, Broom humanizes the people impacted by Hurricane Katrina and who were neglected in the aftermath by the local, state, and federal governments.
During a time when I am unable to explore the world with my own eyes, Broom provided a portrait of her life and New Orleans for me. Even if I was able to visit New Orleans, I would see the view of the city curated for tourists: Mardi Gras colors, Café Du Mond, the French Quarter. Through Broom’s eyes, I am able to see behind the façade. I am able to see how New Orleans’ has changed, both before and after Hurricane Katrina. I am able to glimpse at how the development of the city and race are intertwined, with the ghosts of not-so-distant slavery still very much influencing the New Orleans of today.
To me, the most beautiful thing about reading is being able to see parts of yourself in someone else’s story. Broom’s story is an exploration of who her family is, which informs who she is. Through learning her family history and the history of New Orleans, Broom unearths a deeper understanding of where she comes from—both biologically and geographically.
I highly recommend this book. I bought The Yellow House on Bookshop, which allows you to pick an independent bookstore to receive the proceeds.