|MOVEMENT I The World Before Men|
|II Joseph, Elaine, and Ivory||21||(15)|
|MOVEMENT II The Grieving House|
|MOVEMENT IV Do You Know What It Means? Investigations|
Describes the author's upbringing in a New Orleans East shotgun house as the unruly 13th child of a widowed mother, tracing a century of family history and the impact of class, race and Hurricane Katrina on her sense of identity.
Sarah M. Broom is a writer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Oxford American, and O, The Oprah Magazine among others. A native New Orleanian, she received her Masters in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004. She was awarded a Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant in 2016 and was a finalist for the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction in 2011. She has also been awarded fellowships at Djerassi Resident Artists Program and The MacDowell Colony. She lives in New York state.
"Remembering is a chair that is hard to sit still in," muses Broom, a Whiting Foundation grant recipient. Indeed, though centered around the titular family home before and after Hurricane Katrina, Broom's peripatetic narrative reflects the wanderings of all those displaced and disconnected by "the Water." Broom is blunt about the callous incompetence Katrina survivors faced. Although UN policy gives those displaced through natural disaster "the human right to return to their communities," the New Orleans director of recovery management openly mocks returning Black residents as "buffoons." The Federal Road Home program never paid them enough to live in newly gentrified areas. Broom notes of the pre-Katrina community stability, "only a small fraction of New Orleans ever left for elsewhere." Katrina is a community and family tragedy. Broom's siblings are scattered across the country; her Alzheimer's-afflicted grandmother, "lost" for a month after a sloppy nursing home evacuation, dies shortly after being recovered, and the damaged family home is condemned. Yet Broom's family is stronger than any house. A moving tribute to family and a powerful indictment of societal indifference. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.
Broom reassembles her sizable family tree, damaged by time and uprooted by Hurricane Katrina. As the author suggests in her debut book, her clan's tempest-tossed experience was practically predetermined. She was raised in New Orleans East, an especially swampy section of the city so poor and distant from the city's romantic center that it never appeared on tourist maps. In 1961, when Broom's mother purchased the house of the title, it was hyped as a boomtown "involving men and money and wetlands, dreaming and draining and emergence and fate." But rapid development covered up a multitude of municipal sins that emerged once the rains came. (The title refers in part to the yellow aluminum siding that cloaked rotting wood beneath.) The youngest of 12 siblings and half siblings, Broom knew much of her family only via lore and later research (her father died six months after her birth), which gives this book the feel of a heartfelt but unflinching recovery project. In the early portions, the author describes her family's hard living (her mother was widowed twice) and the re gion's fickle economy and institutional racism. Private school gave Broom a means of escape—she lived in New York working for O, the Oprah Magazine, when Katrina struck—but she returned to reckon with "the psychic cost of defining oneself by the place where you are from." As family members were relocated around the country, she scrambled to locate and assist them, kept tabs on the house, and took a well-intentioned but disillusioning job as a speechwriter for controversial New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, insincerely hyping the city's progress. Broom's lyrical style celebrates her family bonds, but a righteous fury runs throughout the narrative at New Orleans' injustices, from the foundation on up. A tribute to the multitude of stories one small home can contain, even one bursting with loss. Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.