The Yellow House Characters

The main characters in The Yellow House are the Yellow House, Sarah Broom, and Ivory Mae.

  • The Yellow House is a central character of the memoir, despite being an inanimate object. It carries the collective memories of several generations of the Broom family, and its destruction is a cause for sorrow and reflection.
  • Sarah Broom is the author of the memoir. Her return to New Orleans in adulthood motivates her meditations on her heritage and upbringing.
  • Ivory Mae is Sarah's mother. More than any other character, Ivory Mae's dreams and desires are embodied the Yellow House, where she raised her children.


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Last Reviewed on January 7, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1205

The Yellow House

The Yellow House itself becomes a character in Broom’s story because it is frequently personified and comes to be known as a member of the Broom family, considered Ivory’s “thirteenth and most unruly child.” The house is said to bear “witness to [the Brooms’] lives” and is a thoroughly active structure that interacts with, rather than simply exists alongside, the family. The house, like a human being, carries layers, as Broom spots bits of green peeking out beneath its formerly yellow exterior after the hurricane pummels its walls. These layers are significant because much of Broom’s memoir focuses on generations and the ways in which people carry their past. The house carries these generations and the passing of time within its walls.

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When the house is demolished by the City of New Orleans, Broom obtains the demolition report and retitles it “Autopsy of the House,” considering the house’s demise an actual death, its ruined structure a damaged body. At a friend’s urging, Broom writes letters to the house, and these letters allow Broom to explore her relationship with the home in which she was raised.

Sarah M. Broom

Broom is the memoir’s author and narrator. She is the youngest of eleven siblings. Broom is originally named Monique, but her mother gives her a “whiter” name, Sarah, in order to help her fit in with her classmates. Broom grows up in New Orleans East, a poverty-stricken area that stands on shifting ground, where the houses literally sink into the earth. She becomes a vivacious researcher, constantly hungry to understand her family’s history. She is eager to share that history, as well as the history of New Orleans East—a neighborhood that is frequently marginalized and overshadowed by the New Orleans tourism industry, which focuses on Mardi Gras and music rather than the poverty and neglect overtaking much of the city.

Growing up, Broom is described as “Rosemary’s Baby,” alluding to the 1968 film about a demonic child, because she is more difficult than her siblings. She has massive temper tantrums in grocery stores, opens her siblings’ gifts at Christmas, and sends a miniature grandfather clock flying off the shelf and onto her mother’s head.

Broom’s teen years are not much better, as she frequently skips school and misbehaves in class. Toward the end of high school, however, she becomes a serious student and goes on to attend the University of North Texas. Broom realizes the importance of writing and starts piecing together her family history and the history of New Orleans.

Amelia “Lolo”

Amelia, or Lolo (a name she gave herself as a teenager), is Broom’s maternal grandmother. Born on Ormond Plantation, which was the site of a major slave revolt in 1811, Amelia is strong-willed. During her childhood she lives with her older sister Edna, a Jehovah’s Witness. But “Amelia never converted,” Sarah explains: “she had the kind of mind to resist.”

Lolo is concerned with aesthetics—of clothing and food—and this is a trait she passes down to her children. “Everyone knew that Joseph, Elaine, and Ivory belonged to Lolo,” Sarah writes, “by their manner and how they...

(The entire section contains 1205 words.)

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