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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 childA 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 ineuality 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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    Happy Thanksgiving to all my Goodreads friends Each year to mark this distinctly American holiday I attempt to read a book that is American in scope Over the course of 2019 I have read a number of memoirs that have pieced together Americana person by person Some have been admittedly better than others yet all share the American ideal of achieving their own personal dream This year’s National Book Award winner for nonfiction is The Yellow House by Sarah M Broom Part memoir and part social history Broom in her debut book pays homage to New Orleans a city that her family has called home for generations Sarah M Broom dedicates her book to the three women who have most shaped her life her maternal grandmother Amelia “Lolo” Soule her aunt Elaine Gant and her mother Ivory Mae Broom Each of these women raised a family within the nexus of class race and gender in a city where all three have played a key role in shaping its politics Sarah is the baby of her family the youngest sibling of Simon Jr Deborah Valeria Eddie Michael Darryl Carl Karen Troy Byron and Lynette Married to Edward Webb and widowed and then married to Simon Broom Sr Ivory Mae was a mother to six children in her early twenties Living in a relative’s apartment was taxing on all involved yet in early 1960s New Orleans there were few housing opportunities available for African Americans Then the mayor decided to open up New Orleans East Inc and the Broom family moved to 4121 Wilson known to the older siblings as the green house The family would eventually double in size Simon would expand the house doing do it yourself improvement projects so by the time Sarah was born on New Year’s Eve 1980 4121 Wilson had become the yellow house a piece of property that Ivory Mae would cherish for the rest of her life Seeing her friends and nephews turn to drugs Ivory Mae enrolled Sarah in Word of Faith private school At home to her closest friends and family Sarah is known as Monique yet in school she is Sarah holding onto duel roles and identities in and out of the yellow house Ivory Mae knew that in a city as racially charged as New Orleans she would be forced to give her children racially neutral names Few people outside of 4121 Wilson knew that Sarah was Monique and vice versa It was Sarah who attended college graduate school and obtained good journalism jobs outside of New Orleans Most of the rest of the family stayed behind living in the cocoon that was New Orleans East tethered to their matriarch Ivory Mae Some children like Michael and Karen got professional jobs others like Carl worked blue collar and Darryl was strung out on drugs and was rarely allowed in the yellow house This all changed with Hurricane Katrina which Sarah Broom refers to as the water Sarah moved many times for school and work as far as Burundi and as close as the French Quarter While she knew that New Orleans was home she needed to travel the world to obtain a sense of place that guided her home Ivory Mae instilled a sense of pride in her clan She inherited this behavior from her mother Amelia who had taught her children to dress impeccably and garden and cook like a professional Even when the Broom family had little money for food or bills they looked their best and the yellow house appeared as sparkling as possible Meanwhile Sarah was living in New York when Katrina hit New Orleans Her older siblings evacuated to California Arizona and Texas and never returned home Only her mother and Carl who treasured the yellow house the most remained behind In 2011 Sarah as received a grant to write about her family’s history and moved back to New Orleans By this point the yellow house had been washed away by Katrina and Sarah lived in the French Quarter Seeing the disparities between the improved Quarter and abandoned New Orleans East Sarah only understood the importance of home after no house remained behind for her family to root itself for subsequent generations Today the Broom family remains scattered Only Carl and Ivory Mae live in New Orleans The Yellow House is an ode to a city and home to a family that has persevered despite its environment Even through tragedies and natural disasters the Broom family has survived with matriarch Ivory Mae being its glue It took Sarah known as Mo to her siblings eight years to turn her interviews and notes into a book that pays homage to generations of her family The Yellow House is a modern American treasure and is deserving of this year’s National Book Award I look forward to seeing what Sarah M Broom publishes in the coming years 4 stars