The Yellow House | Sarah M. Broom

Summary of: The Yellow House
By: Sarah M. Broom


Welcome to the vivid world of Sarah M. Broom’s memoir, ‘The Yellow House.’ This compelling work uncovers the intimate tales of Broom’s family, their beloved home, and the city of New Orleans. Set against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina, the story explores themes of family bonds, poverty, and systemic racism. Alongside captivating narratives, Broom provides a gripping account of the Black American experience, with many questioning the government’s apathy towards assisting them. Through her distinct writing style, Broom presents her readers with an exceptional, moving chronicle of a family’s resilience in the face of adversity.

A Loving Portrayal of Family, House, and City

New Orleans native Sarah M. Broom’s memoir, which earned her the 2019 US National Book Award, provides a moving account of the extraordinary nourishment that comes from a family linked by blood and shared responsibility. She paints a loving picture of her family, house, and birth city. The city was later ruined by Hurricane Katrina, but Broom’s matter-of-fact voice depicts how working-class and poor Black Americans don’t ask the government or civic structures for help since they already know no help will come. Instead, her family looked after one another, occasionally failing to do so. Broom was the youngest of 12 siblings and step-siblings, raised by her mother, Ivory Mae Broom. Ivory and Simon together had 6 children, including Broom. Her mother’s purchase of the legendary Yellow House, where they all lived together, was a significant event that linked the lives of different family members.

The Impact of the Yellow House

Sarah Broom recounts her father’s death when she was six months old, and the role of her mother Ivory Mae in managing their household, including the unruly Yellow House. Broom describes the five locations that comprised her childhood, revealing her family’s reluctance to let outsiders in. As Broom grew older, she left for college but returned for a friend’s funeral, realizing that she had separated herself from the Yellow House and its dynamics. Despite her reservations, Broom couldn’t help but feel attached to the house that was once her home.

Hurricane Katrina’s Displaced Families

A gripping account of a family’s diaspora during the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe of 2005. “The Yellow House” author, Sarah Broom, details her family’s struggles of relocating to different cities amidst the devastation caused by the hurricane. In the book, she poignantly captures how the trauma of the diaspora was a common experience shared by many New Orleans refugees. Broom also recounts stories of the city’s citizens who were stranded, drowned, or abandoned, and how her family narrowly survived amid the destruction. The tale follows the Broom family as they evacuate, reunite, and rebuild their lives in different cities after Hurricane Katrina destroys their home. Ivory Mae, Sarah’s mother, and her auntie Elaine lived in “Grandmother’s house” in Saint Rose while desperately trying to sell the “Yellow House” in Louisiana to the state through a tedious application that dragged on for 11 years. Broom’s account is a powerful and captivating story of loss, tenacity, and resilience in the face of an unprecedented catastrophe.

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