Gimme Shelter

Not surprisingly, I have long been obsessed with not only shelter magazines, like this one, but also books about design and architecture, as well as anything about the very concept of home.

I finally got down to the business of reading “The Yellow House” by New Orleans-native Sarah Broom. Set in New Orleans East, in the beloved shotgun house Broom’s mother bought at age 17, it centers on the author’s large family, their love, loss and transformation. This debut work — which published in 2019, topped countless book lists and won the National Book Award for Nonfiction — is not a light read, tackling racial and economic inequality, Hurricane Katrina and the joy and heartbreak of multiple generations. It is definitely a book for our times, capturing the spirit and resilience of New Orleans, our collective love of this special place and the distinctive architecture that — along with people, food, art, music and other aspects of local culture — shapes, reshapes and defines all of us.

Broom’s work is vastly different in many ways than another book about a home that also covered the loss, and later hope, wrought by Katrina, “The House on First Street,” released in 2007 by frequent New Orleanian and entertaining doyenne, the late Julia Reed. Both are poignant and beautifully rendered, having earned them a place on my bookshelf, under the “home” category. Reed, who opened up earlier this year about her fight with cancer succumbed to the disease in August. We mourn her loss along with the lifestyle and journalism communities and all of her loved ones. She was a talented force with a laugh that could fill the Superdome. We’ll greatly miss her presence. 

My guess is we can all expect more than one book to publish in the coming months and years about our time spent at home during the pandemic. I look forward to those works and learning about how others weathered this very different kind of storm which, rather than displacing us to find shelter, has us sheltering in place. For me, it has been spent making small, but impactful changes to our rooms to make them as pleasant as possible while we “stay safe at home,” to quote the NOLA Ready slogan. A priority project was refreshing my reading and meditation nook, because like everyone else, I have so much more time to devote to both practices.

If you are feeling stuck at home, rather than safe, my hope is that this issue will inspire you to switch things up a bit. If all else fails, I highly recommend escaping with a good book.

Cheers!