Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review. This book will be released on August 13, 2019.
Well cutting to the chase I really didn’t like this one. I was all ready to fall in love with a nonfiction story where the author talks about her family living in New Orleans East. A place that I have never heard about. Instead the big jumps around a lot and Broom at times talks about her family as if they were these people she doesn’t know. I kept getting confused everytime she talked about Simon Broom (her father) in a what I would call historical tone. Due to this I really didn’t get any type of emotion from her while reading this. The book turns into something more when she recounts Katrina and how scared she was for her brothers and mother. But by then I felt myself just going through the motions to finish this one up. I ended up bouncing to other books to finish in order to just put this one aside. I started it weeks ago and just could not get into this. The ending was perplexing and read as unfinished, at least to me. There is a reason why I tend to not review memoirs. I always feel badly if I don’t like the book the author puts out since then in a way that makes it seem like I dislike them. I think the only memoirs besides this one this year that I read was just Tan France’s book. And reading this one reminds me why I stay away from memoirs especially when they read like this.
“The Yellow House” tells the story of Sarah Broom’s family growing up in a yellow house in New Orleans East. Through a long winding road we get into Sarah’s mother’s family and father’s family and how they ended up meeting and having I think children together. Sarah ends up being the 13th child born to her mother and father and does not get to know him since he died several months after she was born. From there we have Sarah talking about relatives, friends, her brothers, sister, her mother, etc. She sometimes will call them brother, sister, or mother or other times talk about them in a totally removed voice. Sarah tries to leave New Orleans East behind, but she feels it pull her when she goes off to places like New York. When Katrina hits she finds herself wanting to be back in the city, but she has moved on from New Orleans East to the French Quarter properly where her family does not feel as if they fit in.
The writing I thought was too technical and dry. I was glad that Broom included pictures to break up the book. At times I don’t know what Broom was going for. Was she trying to write a history book or was she trying to provide commentary on New Orleans East. And sometimes she would get into crime and statics and how bad New Orleans (French Quarter) had gotten. She would jump around from paragraph to paragraph. When she gets into when she leaves the country for Burundi (I think, sorry reading these ARCS is a pain since I have a hard time trying to search later) the book turns into something else and I just scratched my head.
The flow was awful from beginning to end. I think if the book was more focused it would have resonated more. At times she seems to want to upbraid her father for not finishing the Yellow House so that the family could live there and not be ashamed of it. Other times she is angry that the family is ashamed of the house and can’t have close friendships with others because of it. I just maybe went seriously and was baffled. My parents house was not a showcase and my dad was constantly knocking down a wall and we were dealing with construction here and there. I remember living with plastic hanging from the wall between the living room and entryway for about 5 years. My friends came over all of the time. So did my brothers and relatives. I guess our family just didn’t care? I don’t know. I think that I get the importance of owning your own home and having something that is yours and how important that is to African Americans especially when the housing market fell out and everyone owed money on a home they could no longer afford. I just wish that had been more of the story.
The setting of New Orleans East surprised me. I had no idea such a place existed. I wanted to read more of the history of that place. Too bad most of the history books I saw were just about the French Quarter.
The ending was puzzling. I don’t know what Broom was going for there at all.
I realized after the fact that this genre would be good for “Not My Wheelhouse”. I really don’t read a lot of memoirs. I recall the article by the New York Times about the problem with memoirs which can be summed up that some peoples lives are not that interesting and or one memoir starts to read like another. This one made me think of “Hidden Figures” because the main characters were African American living in a unique time period in the U.S. But unlike with that I really didn’t get what Broom was striving for at all here.