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One Book One Community 2021: The Yellow House: About the Book

2021 Community-Wide Reading Program

The Yellow House Family Tree

The Book: The Yellow House

The Author: Sarah M. Broom

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"My writing attempts to fill in the “blank spaces” on the map, to redraw a map that includes those neighborhoods and streets and cities whose people are deemed not to matter, whose voices do not make it onto the official recording, those made to play supporting when they are, in fact, lead." - From Author's Website,

About the Book


"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 child."

"A 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 inequality, 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."

PBS Newshour: Sarah Broom on 'The Yellow House' and New Orleans East

Sarah Broom’s 2019 memoir, “The Yellow House,” won the National Book Award for non-fiction. Jeffrey Brown sits down with Broom to discuss her mother and how an obsession with houses passed down two generations to the author herself, why Broom doesn’t appear until 100 pages into the book and the larger story she is telling about New Orleans East.

Aired: 12/26/19

Check it out!

Discussion Questions and more

Use these discussion questions to begin your exploration of The Yellow House. 

  1. What does the memoir’s structure and narrative style achieve?
  2. How does Sarah challenge the popular perception of New Orleans?
  3. How do poverty, race, and class shape the lives of Sarah and her family?
  4. What does Sarah gain by leaving home?
  5. How do Hurricanes Betsy and Katrina affect Sarah and her family?
  6. How does figurative language add to the narrative?
  7. What does Yellow House signify to Sarah and her family?

Click here to read responses to these questions from NoveList Plus.