The Oxford American and Sarah M. Broom's "A Yellow House in New Orleans"


Oxford American

I'm late to the table on this one, but I finally got around to reading the last issue of the Oxford American, which always has some of the best writing and essays in the country, all from a Southern perspective. This one was the "Home Sweet Home" issue, and it had a fantastic essay by New Orleans native Sarah M. Broom, called "A Yellow House in New Orleans" -- in which Ms. Broom contemplates the destruction of her childhood home (4121 Wilson Ave., in New Orleans East) and compares its near-explosion in the aftermath of Katrina to the explosion of family secrets ("The yellow house always kept its dilapidation secret, lest the Broom clan’s business be all over the streets").

This section really got to me, in which Sarah, now a New Yorker, finally goes home after the storm to take in what happened to her childhood house:

The front door was wide open; a skinny tree had angled its way inside. I entered the living room and took baby steps forward, afraid the weight of me might collapse it. The farthest I went was into the middle of the living room. It was all dust, wood chips, waterlines, but then also the light switch by the front door. Cream-colored with gold script around the edges. Pretty.

Somehow the house just looked more like itself. It was really so small. And sitting there all curvy-looking. I knew right then that it had fallen so that something in me could open up.

For so long, I have held that yellow house inside me. I have been at times shaken when it came to letting people near me because it would mean letting them near the unadulterated one, the real yellow house. I was a kid raised well (with class and hope but little money) and who grew up in a raggedy house. I never did need to be one or the other. I mean, who does not know that they are more than just a single adjective? But back then when I was eight, twelve, fifteen, I had no idea about the stupefying nature of dichotomy.

"The stupefying nature of dichotomy." I know what she means in my bones; I know what she means whenever I leave the house or drive the streets in New Orleans. Sarah M. Broom has produced a brilliant piece of writing. I hope you read it.


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