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Putting The Real New Orleans On The Map

A house stands in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A house stands in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

You don’t have to actually go to a world-famous city to think you know something about it.

New York? The city that never sleeps. People are aggressive but there’s an energy to it you can’t find anywhere else. Los Angeles? Beautiful weather, beautiful people, but maybe a little superficial because of the entertainment industry. New Orleans? The French Quarter. Jazz music. Amazing food. Street musicians.

But what if a city’s myths aren’t so true for all its residents? How do those people tell their side of a city’s story? Who gets to decide which version of the story is more valid than others?

These are all questions that Sarah Broom ponders in her new book, “The Yellow House.” Broom grew up in New Orleans East, which is across the Danziger Bridge from the French Quarter. She describes it as “50 times the size of the French Quarter,” but says you won’t find it on a tourist map. Her family once lived in a yellow house, but it was badly damaged in Hurricane Katrina. The city tore it down with little notice.

Broom described what the house meant to her in an interview with NPR:

It was a house that I loved deeply, in fact. And I say that because I feel it’s impossible to love any place, and to truly love it, to truly see it for what it is, without taking in all of its complexities and its nuances. And I also feel that way, by the way, about America, which I love deeply and am always interrogating, right? So the house created such complexity of emotion for me because it was the place my mother bought. And the house, at some point, really was in disrepair. It was falling down all around us. And even in those moments, my mother was always trying to fix it back up.

In “The Yellow House,” released earlier this month, Broom tells the story of how her brother sits sentry three times a week in the vacant lot where the house used to stand. She reaches back to piece together the stories of her grandmother, mother and aunt. She describes a New Orleans not of Mardi Gras and beignets, but of yard parties, church and fighting to make ends meet.

We talk with the author about her family’s yellow house and how the story of a city can differ greatly depending on who’s telling it.


Sarah Broom, Writer and New Orleans native; author of the book, “The Yellow House;” @sarahmbroom

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

© 2019 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2019 WAMU 88.5

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