The first time Sarah M. Broom left her hometown of New Orleans, in 1997, it was to attend college at the University of North Texas. In Denton, she first started compiling the notes and stories that would eventually become The Yellow House, a 2019 National Book Award winner. Broom’s sweeping memoir grapples with the history of New Orleans—but not the colorful history of the storied French Quarter that many are familiar with. “How had one square mile,” she asks in the book, “come to stand in for an entire city?” The Yellow House is her response to the question. Broom’s story goes beyond a memoir, though—it’s also an attempt to write a history of New Orleans East, where she’d grown up, precisely because none had been written before. How did the narrow, yellow shotgun structure that housed Broom and her 11 siblings come to exist? She traces back the failed experiment in suburbanization on the east side of town, which left behind a street with houses outnumbered by empty lots, trailer parks, and industrial facilities alongside the highway. She also charts the house’s residents: her mother, who bought the home in the ’60s; her father, who died shortly after Broom’s birth, and the siblings who came in and out of the Yellow House until it fell to Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters in 2005.
—Amal Ahmed, assistant editor
The Circle Contestant Chris Sapphire
In The Circle, Netflix’s newest reality show, a group of eight strangers move into cute, individual apartments to compete for $100,000. Even though they all live in the same apartment building, the catch is they never have a chance to meet the other contestants in person. Instead, they can only interact with each other through the show’s social media platform, called the Circle. This social experiment of a show lets us see how people craft social media presences, and try to build connections with strangers when they only have images and text at their disposal. The way someone wins is by being ranked by the other contestants, hopefully high enough that they become an influencer (complete with a blue check) and get to decide who gets “blocked” from the Circle (or, sent home). The show, now eight episodes in, keeps both contestants and viewers on their toes with alerts, twists, surprises, and even catfishes. But some contestants’ strategy is to just to be themselves.
Which leads me to Chris Sapphire. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Sapphire is an unapologetic gay man who loves the Lord and his family, and has the greatest one-liners and attitude. While others are catfishing, strategizing, and forming “alliances,” Chris is building friendships, making everybody laugh, and ironing his suits, because you still have to look good even when you’re alone in the apartment (the cameras are always on)! Chris is the first contestant we meet, and his opening line is: “I would like to be perceived as a real-ass bitch in a fake-ass world.” Same, Chris, same. How can you not root for him? I want Chris to win that $100K so he can “help [his] mama,” as he says of his goal later in the show. Bring it home to Texas, Chris!
—Doyin Oyeniyi, assistant editor
“Diamonds” by Megan Thee Stallion and Normani
Megan Thee Stallion and Normani, two Houston-bred stars on the rise, have teamed up to bring us their newest collaboration “Diamonds.” The song and its accompanying music video, released last night, is the first single from the Birds of Prey film soundtrack. The track does justice to what Megan and Normani respectively do best—Normani’s voice carries the track, echoing “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” through the bridge and chorus, while Megan takes on the verses with fiery stanzas like: “You want me to be a little more ladylike? / Come through with my girls, then beat your ass on ladies night.” The music video shows the two joining forces as superheroes (or vigilantes) effortlessly taking on goons and bad guys through car chases, fun houses, and dizzying circus tents. It’s interspersed with exclusive clips of Margot Robbie, who stars in the forthcoming film (out February 7th). But let’s be real—Megan and Normani are the ringleaders here.
—Arielle Avila, editorial coordinator