In Berkeley Talks episode 159, Adriana Green, a Ph.D. student in the Department of African American Studies and African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley, and Nadia Ellis, an associate professor in the Department of English, discuss Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House, winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction. The memoir, set in a shotgun house in New Orleans East, tells a hundred years of Broom’s family and their relationship to home.
“I am a diaspora scholar and I’ve had to explain what my field is to many people,” says Ellis, who specializes in Black diasporic, Caribbean and postcolonial literatures and cultures. “Sometimes people seem to not understand what the word ‘diaspora’ means. And I think this is such a wonderful book that one can offer as an example of what it means to feel as if one is both from one place and also displaced from that place — to feel as if the place that claims you maybe most closely is also the place where you can’t live — which is an extraordinary and painful and very, very idiosyncratic feeling to have. That’s very characteristic, actually, of Black life and Black life in America.
“There’s a moment when she’s in Burundi that I really want to point to because it’s such a beautiful way of thinking about that tension between the place that you’re from being the place where you can’t be.