Staff Book Reviews

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Sarah M. Broom’s debut memoir and 2019 National Book Award winner, The Yellow House, tells a hundred years of her family’s story and their relationship to home in New Orleans. Broom’s mother, Ivory Mae, purchased a shotgun house in New Orleans East as a young widow and mother with insurance money. She remarried Simon Broom, and their combined family eventually included twelve children. Six months after Sarah was born, Simon passed away suddenly, leaving Ivory Mae to care for their large family and small home on her own. The Yellow House went into disrepair while Sarah was growing up, and it was finally destroyed when Hurricane Katrina swept through the city. Broom’s mother, siblings, and other family members survived, but most were then scattered throughout the country during evacuation efforts. Sarah and one of her sisters were living in Harlem at the time, and they could only watch the devastation on television while worrying about the safety of their loved ones.

Broom, a prodigal daughter and writer traveling the world, finally came home to New Orleans to research her multi-generational family history. One central question that she tried to answer during the course of her book was “How do we not define ourselves entirely by where we are from?”. She examined the mythology of the city of her birth, and how greed, discrimination, indifference, and poor city planning led to her family home being literally wiped off the map. Sarah also discussed the enormous power of the Yellow House during her childhood and even in later years after its destruction. Broom’s work provides us with an intimate portrait of her family as well as the city and home where they grew up.      

Keep an eye out on BPL’s social media and website for a schedule of virtual programs related to the book, including lectures about themes from the book and, of course, book group discussions for later in the summer. The Yellow House by Sarah Broom has unlimited availability on Hoopla. We’re excited to be partnering with Gramercy Books in Bexley as our bookselling partner, check them out at if you’re interested in purchasing a physical copy of the book.