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Essential Reading? I think THE YELLOW HOUSE by Sarah M. Broom just might be. Displacement, rootedness, home and more in her astonishing story of survival

By Leslie Lindsay 




I read THE YELLOW HOUSE (Grove/Atlantic, August 2019) with an eye toward memoir and a personal connection to one’s home, but this book is so much more than a memoir. It’s an examination of race and class, about the pull of home and family, and destruction. Set in a neglected area of New Orleans, the Yellow House was never much of a house in the first place–even before Katrina. But that’s not the point.

In 1961, Sarah’s mother, Ivory Mae was a determined 19-year old widow. She invests her savings and little inheritance from her first husband into a little shotgun house in a once-promising neighborhood. She meets another man–Simon Broom–who will become the father of the author–but not for many years–and then he, too dies just six months after she is born.

multicolored abstract painting

Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Broom takes the tale of this home and interweaves it with narrative non-fiction, investigative journalism, archival research, and geography, telling the story not just of her mother’s struggle, but also the history of the home, it’s entropy, the family, those tiny pieces of life and love and struggle that make up a whole. It’s about pride, clan, tradition, and more.

Named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review

Named one of the “10 Best Books of 2019” by the New York Times Book Review, Seattle Times, Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Tribune, and Slate

I found THE YELLOW HOUSE to be an eye-opening examination of place, race, identity, inequality, and even shame. Yet, under the shambles of disarray and heartache, lie a tenacity, a hope for future generations, for transformation.

Keep in mind, THE YELLOW HOUSE reads a little more than a ‘memoir,’ and might strike as as study in sociology, reportage, and history. For this reason, I would venture is the reason it has won so many awards. If you’re looking for a more intimate portrayal of memoir with deep introspection and lyrical writing, this might not be the book for you. Yet, some of these sentences simply sing.

Named a Best Book of 2019 by the Washington Post, NPR’s Book Concierge, NPR’s Fresh Air, the Guardian, BookPage, New York Public Library, and Shelf Awareness

Named a Best Memoir of the Decade by LitHub

I found myself struck by the stories of familial connections, the multigenerational aspect of homes and poverty, secrets, and parentage. Here’s what THE YELLOW HOUSE did for me: a rabbit-hole of research. I wanted to know more about ‘my people,’ who they were, where they originated. I wanted to to unearth the foundations of their homes–no longer standing–in rural Kentucky, in Southern Missouri. I found trends and patterns in migration, in family-making, in blended families, life, and death. That’s what this book has the potential to do.

“Gorgeously written, intimate and wise, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House is an astonishing memoir of family, love, and survival. It’s also a history of New Orleans unlike any we’ve seen before, one that should be required reading.”

―Jami Attenberg, author of All Grown Up


Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this.

For more information, to connect with Sarah Broom via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE YELLOW HOUSE, please visit:



In terms of Hurricane Katrina, I found some similarities between THE YELLOW HOUSE  and AFTERMATH LOUNGE (Margaret McMullan). You might also like Jacqueline Woodson’s RED AT THE BONE and Tola Rotimi Abraham’s  BLACK SUNDAY.


Sarah M. Broom is a writer whose work has appeared in the New YorkerThe New York Times MagazineThe Oxford American, and O, The Oprah Magazine among others. A native New Orleanian, she received her Masters in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004. She was awarded a Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant in 2016 and was a finalist for the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction in 2011. She has also been awarded fellowships at Djerassi Resident Artists Program and The MacDowell Colony. She lives in New York state.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

I hope you do!


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Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. She has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.


#memoir #housesandhomes #TheYellowHouse #SoutheasternAmerica #NOLA #NewOrleans #HurricaneKatrina #mothersandchildren #largefamilies #displacement #uprootedness 


[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website on 2.20.20. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this]. 

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