Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 982
Sarah learned that the building she lived in had once been owned by several free women of color in succession. The daughter of Marianne Dubreuil, the first owner, was Cecile Dubreuil, who accumulated various properties in the area. Marianne Dubreuil had also owned seven slaves.
There was no history of New Orleans East, except for original deeds, chains of titles, and other such documents. Sarah had to search through in the insalubrious public library to find the history of the Yellow House. Sarah went to the planning department to try to understand how zones had been originally classified and why the area where Wilson Avenue was located had somehow become classified as business, rather than residential. This was a problem, because it meant that the three houses still standing in the area were now “exceptions,” using space in a legally nonconforming way because of the reclassification of the neighborhood.
Early the next year, Carl called to say the marshes were burning in New Orleans East. From her location in the French Quarter, Sarah feels as if Carl were “calling from a different city.”
Several mornings earlier, their cousin Tony Miller had been shot in the street. Sarah collected Carl and drove him to Tony’s funeral. Tony was the sixteenth person to be murdered in New Orleans in the first three weeks of 2012.
The murder rate was soaring, which Mayor Mitch Landrieu tried to curtail by launching curfews in tourist districts, but this did not help those in New Orleans East. Tony’s funeral reminded Sarah of Alvin’s funeral and also of James, who was now in prison and wrote to Sarah from time to time.
Sarah had come to know Carl in a way that differed from her relationships with her other brothers. They rarely spoke of personal matters, except the past. One day, they rode on bicycles down to Wilson Avenue, past the Yellow House and their old schools.
After this trip with Carl, Sarah took her mother to visit her half brother, Joseph Soule, the child of Cora. He lived uptown and had inherited his father’s whole estate. When they found him, he was eighty-nine years old and living in the house of Ivory Mae’s father, which she had never been inside before. In that house, Lionel Soule’s wife, Bessie, was murdered, after which he died “of a broken heart.”
Joe Soule explained that lawyers had told him Ivory Mae and her sisters could not be classified as “legal” because they were illegitimate. Ivory Mae said they had always all been Soules. Ivory Mae’s birth certificate proved this. A month after that visit, all of Lionel Soule’s children gathered at Grandmother's house, showing their physical similarity.
Sarah had very few pictures of her father, so she treasured the ones she had. She tried to see her father in her brothers and in the stories Ivory Mae told.
Michael arrived from San Antonio on a Greyhound bus. He and Sarah waited together for Carl outside the Yellow House lot. 4121 Wilson was still the official mailing address of both Carl and Michael. When the mail truck came by, Michael and Carl suggested putting up a mailbox again or even buying the whole street. Rachelle’s was the only occupied house on the street. A friend, Little Bit, arrived, and Carl explained the story of how the house was taped off and then demolished.
Carl invited Sarah to come and cut the grass on the lot with him. Carl’s girlfriend, Lisa, came too, as did Michael. They made a day of it, cutting...
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the grass in the empty lot.
While Sarah was cutting the grass, a squabble broke out with Poochie, a squatter from across the street. Carl punched him so that he ended up rolling on the ground by the trash cans. Sarah realized that the issue was a conflict of ownership: Poochie had come to feel that the street was his, but by cutting the grass, the Brooms were marking their ownership.
The Brooms’ Road Home case was finally settled eleven years after Hurricane Katrina. Auntie Elaine had already died, and Ivory Mae was seventy-four. She had already signed over the Yellow House land. She declared she would keep living in Grandmother’s house.
The Yellow House land was auctioned off to become something else, and Sarah wondered how Carl would feel now that the land did not belong to them any more. Would he still look over it? How would he feel about it? How would any of the Brooms feel about it?
The divergence between central, tourist-filled New Orleans and the sinking neighborhood of New Orleans East is more distinct than ever in this final section of Broom’s story. She emphasizes the rising crime rates spreading across the abandoned areas and the extent to which the city’s initiatives focused only on restoring the central French Quarter, leaving the external parts of the city abandoned.
For Sarah, however, New Orleans is defined by the Eastern sector and particularly by the Yellow House. In this section of the story, she charts the demise of Wilson Avenue and the neighborhood around it. She ties up loose ends surrounding her family’s identity by describing the meeting between her mother and her half brothers, the Soules. She also describes the lingering connection she and her brothers still feel with the empty lot on which their house once stood.
Ivory Mae’s story throughout this book has always been that of a woman who wanted a place of her own. Broom, in the end, does not fully understand her own relationship with home ownership and cannot quite disentangle herself from a sense that the Yellow House will always be her home. These feelings compete in the final section of the book, as Sarah leaves New Orleans behind again.