The Yellow House

Grove. Aug. 2019. 304p. photos. maps. ISBN 9780802125088. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780802146540. MEMOIR
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.
VERDICT Though largely a linear narrative, this debut memoir feels collage-like, at once impressionistic, cumulative, and multisensory; imbued with ambivalence about leaving and wonder at the pull of home. Recommended for all who enjoy family history or care to explore beyond the surface of place.
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