“I have described New Orleans as a city of feeling …” writes Sarah M. Broom in The Yellow House
If you’ve been following this blog for sometime you know that my ancestral roots are dug deep in Louisiana. New Orleans is a pin on my map, but the New Orleans I grew up spending time in most every summer of my youth had little to do with the place that lived in most people’s imagination. As Broom points out, people often have a visceral reaction when you merely utter the words New Orleans. Sometimes it isn’t even an actual emotion they name; it may just be a sound.
This is why Broom’s book so hit home. On so many levels.
In The Yellow House, she explores her hometown — New Orleans East — “across the bridge” from the one that’s minutes-but-worlds away from the New Orleans of the of gas lights and music and all-night reverie. Of the French Quarter she asks: “How had one-square mile come to stand for the entire city?”
“The East” lies at best on the edges of imagination, but Broom somehow knew at a young age, that she needed to secret away details about the her home — The Yellow House — the life that filled it up, and the ground upon which it precariously sat.
“I was still writing everything down as I had learned to do in high school. In the Yellow House, especially rote detail as if by doing, I was making things real, findable, fighting disappearance. I could collect evidence.”
It’s another August and it’s about the time of year that my family would be readying the suitcases for that trip east, to visit my grandfather and the rest of the family who remained rooted somehow in that uncertain ground. It seems fitting that Broom’s book would arrive this week in keeping with tradition. It took me away, back there. I’m still walking around listening and looking chasing my own ghosts.
You can read my review of Broom’s far-reaching exploration of erasure and belonging here at latimes.com Arts and Books.