A man clings to the top of a vehicle before being rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard from the flooded streets of New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in Louisiana September 4, 2005. Residents continue to be rescued from their homes and the streets of the flood ravaged city. Pictures of the Year 2005 REUTERS/Robert Galbraith FR05090007 RG/DH FOR BEST QUALITY IMAGE SEE: GM1DVGOMQWAA - RP6DRNBBEUAC

The wooden house is on the short stretch of long Wilson Avenue. Cut off from the dangerous Chef Menteur Highway, on the central reservation of which Karen, one of the narrator’s eleven older sisters, can be dragged by a car on the way to school, this corner belongs to eastern New Orleans.

An “outside” of the bustling city, although this New Orleans East is five times larger than Jackson Square’s famous French Quarter. Left and right of the highway are “dilapidated apartment blocks formerly called The Groove, The Goose and The Gap.”

Earlier, because man-made nature with the pretty name Katrina simply swept the district off the face of the earth in 2005 and let it be swallowed up by the water. And with it the “yellow house” that Ivory Mae Broom bought with her husband Simon in 1961, thereby fulfilling her dearest dream.

The daughter Sarah M. Broom, born in 1978, now pays tribute to this house in her memoir. The family history of the author, which extends over three generations, is concentrated in it. The lighter or darker skin tone of her family members holds meaning in a city fixated on “the nuance of skin color, obsessively. My mother, Ivory Mae, understood early on the value of her fair skin and the texture of her curly hair, which she considered good,” says the author.

Ivory Mae is the youngest child of Amelia Gant, nicknamed Lolo, and like her older siblings Joseph and Elaine – “Uncle Joe” and “Auntie Elaine” for Broom – born out of wedlock. Because Joseph Soule, the progenitor, served the Catholic God, was married and already had children.

Born in 1916, Lolo struggled to “give her offspring a childhood” at a time when black neighborhood parks still had “No Negros, No Chinese and No Dogs” signs and schools were still severely segregated ruled.

Born into a Catholic sect, Ivory Mae learns to see the “divine in the everyday” from her foster mother, who is part of the female survival community. At the same time, she taunts the black boys on the street. “To me,” Ivory explains to the reporting daughter, “my mother wasn’t black. She was my mom, and my mom wasn’t black.”

The children’s skin tone, along with Lolo’s upbringing, may have contributed to the fact that the vestmental will later play such an important role. At least Ivory Mae and Joe “dressed to be seen.”

Ivory Mae married early, but her childhood friend Webb did not survive long, he had an accident at the age of 19 while he was in the military. There are already two children in the world, the third, the “black sheep” of the family, is on the way.

For Ivory, Simon Broom, who “spoke so proudly” and also brought three children into the marriage, was “a decision” that completely disrupted the sibling line. The couple met in the early 1960s when New Orleans East, lying entirely below sea level, was becoming a model city.

When they moved into Wilson Avenue in 1964, they were the only black people. The shotgun house had to be hauled out of the swamp first. Barely a year later, the east was hit by migratory hurricane Betsy. “It was like something out of a movie,” say the older siblings Sarah. 160,000 shoddy houses were swept away. Rumor has it that dams were blown up to save the wealthier neighborhoods.

Broom, who did not witness these events herself, relies on extensive research in addition to family accounts. Land speculation, the hope of a boom from NASA’s production site, where first father Simon and later Sarah’s brother Carl worked, chaotic urban planning and promises of social advancement play an important role and also affect the residents of Wilson Avenue. When the visually impaired Sarah, known by her family by her middle name Monique, is born, her father dies. By then, NO East had already turned into a black district.

Sarah belongs with the younger siblings to the first black minority in the schools for whites. Not only are they discriminated against, they also learn shame. The outward appearance so cultivated by the mother cannot be maintained after Simon’s death, in the competition of necessities the decaying yellow house is subject to Sarah’s school fees. So it becomes Ivory Mae’s “13. Problem child”, which remains carefully hidden from strangers’ eyes. “Our house is not so comfortable for others,” the children hear as a daily litany.

Sarah, who is not only torn between two names, tries to escape from the increasingly empty house, to which the siblings only return in emergencies. She studies, goes to New York as a journalist and to Burundi as an activist. When Katrina reached shore on August 27, 2005, Sarah was in Harlem. The siblings, still living in New Orleans, escape, but Carl, the faithful protector of the house, survives in an adventurous manner. Grandma Lolo is lost, mentally too.

This final part of this impressive book of memories deals with geographical dispersion, return and the residents’ efforts to be compensated. “I don’t want to go out of this world without having my own house,” Ivory affirms when it’s clear that the yellow house is going to fall victim to the wrecking ball. Sarah accompanies the changes in the city after the storm for a while as the speechwriter of the populist black mayor, who conjures up the New Orleans myth, but under whose burden the black residents groan and suffocate.

The east with its ghost mailboxes is being quietly abandoned and the few remaining residents there are considered an “exception” by the city administration. “The street changes with the small rampant steps of decay. Everything we passed used to be something else.”

Broom, who received the National Book Award for Nonfiction for her book, succeeds in calling up images of the city and intensely capturing the feelings of the uprooted, for whom a house is more than just a place to stay, namely home.

At times, she directly urges people to “listen” and “look” and become aware of the injustices faced by black people in the American South. The book is an empathetic gift to the family and at the same time a sharp-tongued document of structural racism. And despite all the tribulations experienced, a declaration of love to New Orleans.