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The Street (Virago Modern Classics)

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With a new introduction by TAYARI JONES, author of An American Marriage and winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019. 'Ann Petry's first novel, The Street, was a literary event in 1946, praised and translated around the world - the first book by a black woman to sell more than a million copies . . . Her work endures not merely because of the strength of its messa With a new introduction by TAYARI JONES, author of An American Marriage and winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019. 'Ann Petry's first novel, The Street, was a literary event in 1946, praised and translated around the world - the first book by a black woman to sell more than a million copies . . . Her work endures not merely because of the strength of its message but its artistry' NEW YORK TIMES 'My favorite type of novel, literary with an astonishing plot . . . insightful, prescient and unputdownable' TAYARI JONES New York City, 1940s. In a crumbling tenement in Harlem, Lutie Johnson is determined to build a new life for herself and her eight-year-old boy, Bub - a life that she can be proud of. Having left her unreliable husband, Lutie believes that with hard work and resolve, she can begin again; she has faith in the American dream. But in her struggle to earn money and raise her son amid the violence, poverty and racial dissonance of her surroundings, Lutie is soon trapped: she is a woman alone, 'too good-looking to be decent', with predators at every turn.


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With a new introduction by TAYARI JONES, author of An American Marriage and winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019. 'Ann Petry's first novel, The Street, was a literary event in 1946, praised and translated around the world - the first book by a black woman to sell more than a million copies . . . Her work endures not merely because of the strength of its messa With a new introduction by TAYARI JONES, author of An American Marriage and winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019. 'Ann Petry's first novel, The Street, was a literary event in 1946, praised and translated around the world - the first book by a black woman to sell more than a million copies . . . Her work endures not merely because of the strength of its message but its artistry' NEW YORK TIMES 'My favorite type of novel, literary with an astonishing plot . . . insightful, prescient and unputdownable' TAYARI JONES New York City, 1940s. In a crumbling tenement in Harlem, Lutie Johnson is determined to build a new life for herself and her eight-year-old boy, Bub - a life that she can be proud of. Having left her unreliable husband, Lutie believes that with hard work and resolve, she can begin again; she has faith in the American dream. But in her struggle to earn money and raise her son amid the violence, poverty and racial dissonance of her surroundings, Lutie is soon trapped: she is a woman alone, 'too good-looking to be decent', with predators at every turn.

30 review for The Street (Virago Modern Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Candi

    4.5 stars “All through Harlem there were apartments just like this one, she thought, and they’re nothing but traps. Dirty, dark, filthy traps. Upstairs. Downstairs. In my lady’s chamber. Click goes the trap when you pay the first month’s rent. Walk right in. It’s a free country. Dark little hallways. Stinking toilets.” Oh, how I wish I could slap this novel into scores of hands and say ‘read this’. However, those who need to read it the most would never bother to open this up to page one. Then, pe 4.5 stars “All through Harlem there were apartments just like this one, she thought, and they’re nothing but traps. Dirty, dark, filthy traps. Upstairs. Downstairs. In my lady’s chamber. Click goes the trap when you pay the first month’s rent. Walk right in. It’s a free country. Dark little hallways. Stinking toilets.” Oh, how I wish I could slap this novel into scores of hands and say ‘read this’. However, those who need to read it the most would never bother to open this up to page one. Then, perhaps books like this need to appear in more and more school curriculums instead. Make them read it! While this story is mainly about Lutie Johnson, a divorced, young, black woman and a devoted, hard-working mother, it is really the story of all those black women who fight a never-ending battle against racism and poverty. Like any loving mother, what Lutie desires most in life is for her eight year old son, Bub, to have a fair chance at success and happiness. Living in 1940s Harlem, Lutie and Bub are faced with that old devil of an obstacle – white supremacy. If that isn’t enough to get your blood boiling, it seems every time Lutie turns around she is faced with misogyny and the rot of more than one sexual predator. Author Ann Petry was one passionate woman. I was intensely stirred by her impatience and animosity towards a large portion of the human race. I became enraged along with Ann through Lutie while reading, often shouting out for anyone within hearing range to “please listen” to passages like this: “Streets like the one she lived on were no accident. They were the North’s lynch mobs, she thought bitterly; the method the big cities used to keep Negroes in their place. And she began thinking of Pop unable to get a job; of Jim slowly disintegrating because he, too, couldn’t get a job, and of the subsequent wreck of their marriage; of Bub left to his own devices after school. From the time she was born, she had been hemmed into an ever-narrowing space, until now she was very nearly walled in and the wall had been built up brick by brick by eager white hands.” The Street introduces a number of characters besides Lutie and Bub, and each shares a piece of his or her life through a distinctive voice. The reader gets into their heads, and this was not usually a pleasant place to perch. Dwelling in the mind of William Jones, the superintendent of Lutie’s apartment complex, was especially unsettling. Jones does not have one redeemable bone in his body. He is a prime example of what ‘the street’ can do to a man when he is brought to the depths of inhumanity, both literally and figuratively into the cellar. “You done lived in basements so long you ain’t human no more. You got mould growin’ on you…” Petry’s characterizations are striking and unforgettable. But it’s Lutie that we side with, hoping with all our might that she will prevail, she will rise above the ill-fated street. “She had come this far poor and black and shut out as though a door had been slammed in her face. Well, she would shove it open; she would beat and bang on it and push against it and use a chisel in order to get it open.” This might be a work of fiction, but I felt its impact so profoundly that I had a difficult time letting it go. It’s not a perfect work, so I had to think quite a bit about how I would rate this. I think Petry accomplished what she set out to do. She painted a very realistic picture of oppression, its roots and its repercussions. I highly suspect that Petry’s intent here was to knock the reader over the head and say, “look here, this is what can happen if this cycle is not fixed.” It’s a cycle that was very methodically crafted over a long period of years and one that will take an equal length of time to dismantle. But it can be done and it needs to be done. Though written in 1946, The Street resonates fiercely this very instant. “Her voice had a thin thread of sadness running through it that made the song important, that made it tell a story that wasn’t in the words—a story of despair, of loneliness, of frustration. It was a story that all of them knew by heart and had always known because they had learned it soon after they were born and would go on adding to it until the day they died.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    ij

    The Street to Lutie Johnson meant 116th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, New York City. For those who don’t know, that’s Harlem. Lutie is looking here for an apartment for her and her son Bub. She wants her own apartment away from her Pop, where she believed Lil her Pop’s current live-in girlfriend is a bad influence to Bub. The apartment in question is a fourth floor walkup with dark narrow hallways, located in the back of the building. There is a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, and The Street to Lutie Johnson meant 116th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, New York City. For those who don’t know, that’s Harlem. Lutie is looking here for an apartment for her and her son Bub. She wants her own apartment away from her Pop, where she believed Lil her Pop’s current live-in girlfriend is a bad influence to Bub. The apartment in question is a fourth floor walkup with dark narrow hallways, located in the back of the building. There is a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Bub will have to sleep on the sofa. She did not care much for the Super, Mr. Jones, who showed her the apartment or for the nosey neighbor, Mrs. Hedges, who had her head sticking out her first floor window, when Lutie had arrived. But at twenty-nine fifty ($29.50) a month at least she would be getting her eight (8) year old away from Pop’s place. The Street was a big change for Lutie who had at one time had her own house with her husband Jim. But things did not work out when Lutie became the sole provider for the family. She had to take a job as a live-in maid in Connecticut and was only able to come home twice a month to her husband and son. Lutie was a high school graduate but it was the only job she could find, at the time. Her husband could find no job. Much later, after receiving a call from her Pop, Lutie came home to find Jim with another women. Jim was not apologetic and Lutie took Bub and moved in with Pop. Lutie took the civil service exam and was able to get a lower level government job. She was ambitious and thought she could move up and do better for her and Bub. After paying rent she did not have much left over and must abide by a strict budget. The Super had wanted Lutie from the time he first saw her and vowed to himself to win her over. The Super currently lived, on the first floor, with a woman named Min, who he lost interest in the minute he first saw Lutie. Mrs. Hedges had eyes on Lutie for a man that she knew, “a nice white gentleman.” Bud went from coming home to an undesirable environment, to coming home to an empty apartment, on The Street. Lutie was convinced that she was doing better and would continue to make advancements, if they could just keep on their budget and she could save money. She kept expressing this to Bub. The Super thinks that if he can get rid of Min, that he can get Lutie. So he decides that he will put her out. Min feels that she is at risk and visits the Prophet David, a root doctor. After Min explains her problem to Prophet David he gave a red liquid to put in the Super’s coffee, two candles to burn, some power to spread around for protection, and a cross. He also told her to make sure the house was cleaned well. Ten dollars please. Prophet David said he could not do anything about Lutie, but, that Min would not get put out. It is amazing how things change with a confidence boost. Min went home knowing that she would not be put out. And she wasn’t. Lutie spurges one evening and goes to a bar (Junto Bar and Grill). After a few beers she is feeling good and singing loud with the music. She has a good voice and gets noticed. One of the persons that notices her was Boots Smith, another is Old Man Junto, “a nice white gentleman.” Boots tell Lutie she can make money singing with his band. She is excited with the possibility. The plan is for her to tryout, with his band, the next night. Lutie is a hit with the band and the patrons. Lutie had been warned about men, by her grandmother. She knows that Boots wants more than to help her. But she waits till the second night to ask about her salary. In the meantime, Old Man Junto had summoned Boots and told him he wanted Lutie for himself and not to offer her a salary. Old Man Junto owned both the bar and grill and the club where Boots’ band played. Lutie leaves the club on the second night after hearing that she won’t get paid, because the Old Man says she is not ready. Mrs. Hedges has also told the Super to stay away from Lutie. It turns out the Old Man also owns the apartment building. The Super is PISSED. He can’t have Lutie and for some reason is scared to put Min out. He believes that Lutie has turned him down and is messing around with Old Man Junto. He tries to think of a way to get back at her. He decides to get Bub in trouble. Bub gets arrested from a scheme designed and put in place by the Super. Lutie finds an attorney and he agrees to get Bub out of trouble, but, it will cost her two hundred dollars. She has no idea where to get this money. She finally thinks of Boots who she believes will loan it to her. Of course, Boots gets Old Man Junto involved. When Lutie goes to Boots’ apartment to get the loan he has promised her she sees the Old Man. Boots takes her in the bedroom to explain. She wants no part of this and screams for Boots to get the Old Man out of there. Boots thinks this is his opportunity to have Lutie than give her to the Old Man. It does not work out that way. After the Old Man leaves Boots tries to force himself on Lutie. He smacks her several times in the face. Lutie is fast enough to grab an iron candlestick. The candlestick proves harder than Boots’ skull. Now, Lutie believes she has murdered Boots. She takes money out of his wallet for Bub’s attorney. Then after removing the door key from his pocket leaves to go to the attorney. It comes to her that she will probably be known as an unfit mother for murdering Boots. Who would release Bub to an unfit mother? Lutie thinks that Bub will be better off without her. Lutie take the money and takes a train to Chicago. She thinks that Bub will have a better chance by going to reform school. The story is about race, gender and class. This is a debut novel for Ann Petry, first published in 1946. There are many conflicts, twists, and turns. In the end, Lutie had talked to Bub so much about money that he ended up trying to get money by helping the Super who had actually tricked him into thinking he was helping to catch crooks.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    The street could motivate or obliterate. The street could consume and devour. Here, the street is a personified stronghold; dreams come alive or they burn because of the street. Sometimes I start the first few pages of a book and realize immediately that it will have a treasured rating on my physical and goodreads shelves. Sometimes, after the finality, I sit in silence and thumb the highlighted pages of my copy, flipping again through its contents physically and mentally, attempting to pinpoint The street could motivate or obliterate. The street could consume and devour. Here, the street is a personified stronghold; dreams come alive or they burn because of the street. Sometimes I start the first few pages of a book and realize immediately that it will have a treasured rating on my physical and goodreads shelves. Sometimes, after the finality, I sit in silence and thumb the highlighted pages of my copy, flipping again through its contents physically and mentally, attempting to pinpoint its uniqueness, allowing myself to once again become consumed by the singularity of a particular book. The measured movement of the words in this novel captivates, rhythm forming a parallel with a meaningful plot of heartbreak and pain. Her voice had a thin thread of sadness running through it that made the song important, that made it tell a story that wasn't in the words - a story of despair, of loneliness, of frustration. Listen to the tunes of a young, black, immigrant woman who moves to New York City to work and support a husband and child in Jamaica; hear a refrain of disloyalty and toil, a stanza of child rearing and long hours of work in a place where the neighbors are the worst enemies; notice the repeated hook of a torturous street that can't be avoided when it is all a person can afford; what you'll hear is a melancholic hymn of a dream displaced. She had come this far poor and black and shut out as though a door had been slammed in her face. Well, she would shove it open; she would beat and bang on it and push against it and use a chisel in order to get it open. I suspect Petry became the first black woman to sell more than a million copies of a novel not because she wrote like the Richard Wrights before her, but because she did not. From these words, the real portrait of a hard-working segment of women rarely illuminated emerges, and if you've ever spent a few years in inner-city New York, huddled in a small apartment, fearful of spending too much time on the street, you understand Lutie's despair over her son. Dirty, dark, filthy traps. Upstairs. Downstairs. In my lady's chamber. Click goes the trap when you pay the first month's rent. Walk right in. It's a free country. Dark little hallways. Stinking toilets. I read Petry and I see the words of Buchi Emecheta and Fumiko Enchi. I see the Lutie Johnsons of this world who must balance long work hours with proper childcare and in the interim, be classified as bad mothers. I see the women who must escape the prison of prostitution that looms around them. I see unmarried mothers engaged in the struggle to get paid equally so that they too can manage their households. I see the women who raise men. I see women of the city who spend hours getting from home to work and back, women whose children lose their childhoods, those women who can never seem to find their way out of the poverty cycle. I read Petry and I see the street more clearly.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    Don't talk to me about Germans. They're only doing the same thing in Europe that's been done in this country since the time it started. Since a grand jury ruled that Daniel Pantaleo should not be indicted for the murder of Eric Garner, a murder committed via an unlawful chokehold that was deemed a homicide and published as a Youtube video a day later, I've been doing some reconfiguring with the help of myriad Tumblr posts cause fuck mainstream media. I'll pay heed instead to a post describing Don't talk to me about Germans. They're only doing the same thing in Europe that's been done in this country since the time it started. Since a grand jury ruled that Daniel Pantaleo should not be indicted for the murder of Eric Garner, a murder committed via an unlawful chokehold that was deemed a homicide and published as a Youtube video a day later, I've been doing some reconfiguring with the help of myriad Tumblr posts cause fuck mainstream media. I'll pay heed instead to a post describing the systematic invalidation of the concept of collective trauma suffered by black people as a result of racism by a high school teacher; a teacher who went on right after to academically delight in the woeful tale of a white boy traumatized by his mother killing a chicken in front of him. I'll keep in mind that every authoritative text written on philosophy and psychology and epistemology by a white man, sometimes poor and sometimes not straight but usually with very little variation in characteristics, is simply that. The text of a white man. In this world of ours, such texts taken as "universal" and "standard" and everything vaguely sadistic in them excused because of the "times" result in a US twenty dollar bill with a genocidal pasty bag of dicks plastered in the circle of honor. Cause, y'know, he was a president. He could have killed her easy and no one would even have rapped on the door, and he wondered what went on inside these other apartments to make their occupants so incurious. I may perhaps be mislabeling this piece as "Dickensian" because it's been a long time since I last read him and the author doesn't rhapsodize or stereotype or flounder around for the Redemption of the Little White Straight Man, but what I remember most about his reputation is he being a crusader for the poor. Crusader's a horrible term for it when you look at the historical context, but nonetheless I will compare Petry and this book of hers to him because it is on par with Native Son in terms of the socioeconomic ramifications of anti-blackness and even better because black women get more consideration than a girlfriend in a refrigerator. It's not as good as Beloved, but it is evident that this work, published in 1944, was a powerful forebearer. The glitter on the screen did nothing to dispel her sense of panic. She kept thinking it had nothing to do with her, because there were no dirty little rooms, no narrow, crowded streets, no children with police records, no worries about rent and gas bills. If all thinking by white women gets clumped together under the simplistic and far too often dismissive "feminist" label and thinking by non-white men gets the civil rights/Oriental kicker, thinking by non-white women is barely a poof in the hallowed halls of Endless Reference. This work is not Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, but it's a damn good place of fiction to start. Much like Larsen, Petry cuts to the bone with a few sentences and puts the rest of the works that take at least ten pages to parse their point to neverending shame. Anti-blackness from the perspective of a white woman? Check. Black male misgogyny? Check. White male misogyny/racism? Check. Black woman internalized misogyny? Check. White person sadism/suicide as an inevitable result of their indoctrinated shutting off of empathy in favor of money? Check, check, a myriad of multifarious characters each getting their psychological due in their various places as accorded by anti-blackness, US North New York New York Harlem style. Streets like the one she lived on were no accident. They were the North's lynch mobs, she thought bitterly; the method the big cities used to keep Negroes in their place. Don't forget the economic imbalance that will exist so long as capitalists need the homeless to feel better about themselves. I’d sell anything I’ve got without stopping to think about it twice, because I don’t intend to learn how to crawl again. Violence and looting don't solve anything unless you worship the US military and choose to ignore that all your "beautiful holidays" and tree-lighting is built on centuries of one country razing another in pursuit of said loot. She held the paper in her hand for a long time, trying to follow the reasoning by which that thin ragged boy had become in the eyes of a reporter a 'burly Negro.' And she decided that it all depended on where you sat how these things looked. If you looked at them from inside the framework of a fat weekly salary, and you thought of colored people as naturally criminal, then you didn't really see what any Negro looked like. You couldn't, because the Negro was never an individual. He was a threat, or an animal, or a curse, or a blight, or a joke. P.S. This book doesn't mince around the idea of sex and has one of the best endings ever, if your incentive for reading tends more towards the literary than the humanitarian.

  5. 5 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    27/2/20 What a ride! Such a stellar and heartbreaking book. I'm so glad I got to read this with my book club 😭It's now one of my all-time favourites! 2/7/20 Reading this book with my patrons this month, SO EXCITED!! 28/2/20 Found this one during one of my book scavenging trips through London! :D You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website 27/2/20 What a ride! Such a stellar and heartbreaking book. I'm so glad I got to read this with my book club 😭It's now one of my all-time favourites! 2/7/20 Reading this book with my patrons this month, SO EXCITED!! 28/2/20 Found this one during one of my book scavenging trips through London! :D You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  6. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    This book treats, with unflinching clarity, the poverty, racism and sexism that trap the young black woman Lutie Johnson. Her husband is unable to find work so she takes a job as a maid in the suburbs. This separates her from her husband and son for weeks at a time, leading to the destruction of the marriage. She and her 8 year old son Bub wind up living in the only apartment she can afford on 116th Street in Harlem. Every step Ludie takes to pull herself up is thwarted by her color, her lack of This book treats, with unflinching clarity, the poverty, racism and sexism that trap the young black woman Lutie Johnson. Her husband is unable to find work so she takes a job as a maid in the suburbs. This separates her from her husband and son for weeks at a time, leading to the destruction of the marriage. She and her 8 year old son Bub wind up living in the only apartment she can afford on 116th Street in Harlem. Every step Ludie takes to pull herself up is thwarted by her color, her lack of money and by men who surround her like a pack of dogs slobbering over their prey. Things do not go well for her or Bub. Whether in Harlem in the 1940s, Paris in the late 18th century (as depicted by Emile Zola in "The Gin Palace") or today, sometimes it is just not possible to escape your circumstances. This book was very sad, but quite realistic and wonderfully written. I listened to the audio book and the narrator Shayna Small was excellent, however some idiot producer decided that it would be a good idea to insert random and poorly-executed sound effects like doors slamming, dogs snoring, doorbells, trains etc. They really cheapened the experience.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Reggie

    Lutie Johnson, the protagonist of The Street, spent time working in Connecticut for a rich white family called the Chandlers. A family that, for all intents & purposes, was living the American Dream—At least on the surface. From the surface you see this family, this home, their money & wish you could be a fly on the wall to some of their conversations. Surely they would drop some gems that would change your life if you were openminded + listened & changed your mindset to fit theirs. Lutie tried i Lutie Johnson, the protagonist of The Street, spent time working in Connecticut for a rich white family called the Chandlers. A family that, for all intents & purposes, was living the American Dream—At least on the surface. From the surface you see this family, this home, their money & wish you could be a fly on the wall to some of their conversations. Surely they would drop some gems that would change your life if you were openminded + listened & changed your mindset to fit theirs. Lutie tried it. She heard them mention Benjamin Franklin a few times. How he managed to achieve success. She began to accept that if he could achieve success then so could she. From the cover of this novel you can tell that Lutie Johnson was no white man nor a slave owner. She was a Black woman who was suddenly a single mother after a divorce from her husband and she now finds herself in Harlem, 1944, living on 116th Street. Alongside the likes of Mrs. Hedges & Super. Never too far away from Boots Smith or Junto. Lutie Johnson—a courageous, gorgeous & hardworking woman—was wanted for something by everyone. Mrs. Hedges knew she could bring her more "clients." Super, Boots Smith & Junto all wanted to "happen" to her in one way or the other. All Lutie wanted was a better life for her & her 8 year old son, Bub. & Bub wanted the same for Lutie. He saw how hard she worked & how long she had to be away from him at times & was willing to do anything it took to make life easier for Lutie. 📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚 Ann Petry set the literary world on fire in 1946 with her release of The Street as she became the first African American woman to sell over 1 million copies of a novel (Frank Yerby became the first African American to sell one million copies of a novel with The Foxes of Harrow). Fortunately, through a small corner of Bookstagram, she seems to be having another moment. An author who was a genius that never received her just due because of sexism & racism, similar to Lutie Johnson. Big shouts to all the Bookstagrammers working to make sure that when that literary canons are mentioned Ann Petry, & The Street, are becoming a strong presence in those conversations. #ReadAnnPetry 📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚 Ann Petry can do no wrong in my world. The Street was even better the second time around. An American Literary Classic that we readers, as a collective, are not talking about enough. Me and Akili Nzuri (@ablackmanreading on Instagram) have a show called Books Are Pop Culture (@booksarepopculture on Instagram) and we spent some serious time discussing this masterpiece. I've attached links to both parts of our discussion below. BAPC Discusses The Street Part 1 - https://www.instagram.com/tv/CPg8LEmn... BAPC Discusses The Street Part 2 - https://www.instagram.com/tv/CPmWV8mn... I hope you'll enjoy! #ReadWithBAPC

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I haven't felt so mindfucked from an ending since Bend Sinister. Yet, whereas Nabokov does it simply because he can, in The Street it serves to underline the message, and I would say message rather than plot because Petry was a political writer and this novel certainly is that, besides being a wonderful piece of fiction. Some books shouldn't have happy endings, life in 1940's Harlem as a single mother didn't often have a happy ending and some types of books should just completely break you becau I haven't felt so mindfucked from an ending since Bend Sinister. Yet, whereas Nabokov does it simply because he can, in The Street it serves to underline the message, and I would say message rather than plot because Petry was a political writer and this novel certainly is that, besides being a wonderful piece of fiction. Some books shouldn't have happy endings, life in 1940's Harlem as a single mother didn't often have a happy ending and some types of books should just completely break you because maybe it wouldn't get through otherwise. In Petry’s novel the characters are not simply good or bad, they are just people acting according to the natural, logical consequences of their conditions, the result of genocidal economics in action. Yet even the character Junto, who comes to embody the crudest kind of predatory capitalism, much in the way Ben Harrison embodies dickface trolling, is still a pawn in the social/economic conditions of which he is largely unaware. I see Petry often compared to Richard Wright and there is certainly a compassion to be made with this novel and Native Son, yet for me as much as I did understand what Wright was saying and the significance of his protagonist becoming a murderer on a rational level, I just never really bought it as a narrative, Petry I buy, and based on this novel I say she is far more talented than Wright (best Wright story=The Man Who Lived Underground) The paradox of Lutie's very resistance to the pressures of the unrelenting ontological angst of living in such dehumanizing conditions leading her to commit a horrendous act is illuminated in a way Wright never captured. My only complaint of this novel is the noticeable lack of unicorns.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    Lutie Johnson does everything 'right'. She works hard, struggles to save, puts her son first, tries to protect him from loneliness, discomfort and the influences of the street full of poor, struggling folks. While working for a white family as a live-in housekeeper, she absorbed the philosophy the men espoused – wealth is available to anyone who works for it in this country. She studies, gets a 'respectable' white collar job, and keeps studying so that she can some day get a piddling promotion. Lutie Johnson does everything 'right'. She works hard, struggles to save, puts her son first, tries to protect him from loneliness, discomfort and the influences of the street full of poor, struggling folks. While working for a white family as a live-in housekeeper, she absorbed the philosophy the men espoused – wealth is available to anyone who works for it in this country. She studies, gets a 'respectable' white collar job, and keeps studying so that she can some day get a piddling promotion. She isn't 'color-struck'. She takes responsibility for her own success (or lack of it), keeps healthy and has an innate store of self-respect. If anyone can pull herself up by her bootstraps, it's Lutie, and for me the most vivid takeaway from this story is that 'bootstraps' theory is a barbed, cruel trap. For Lutie, her family and all tge residents of the street, one weighty materialisation of this trap is RENT. Living in London, I can relate, but the opening of the book in which Lutie contemplates the horrible living conditions she is about to pay such an extortionate price for showed how much uglier the word looms for people trying to make the frayed ends of small salaries and low wages meet. In such grinding poverty conditions, the motivation to seek any kind of hustle is intense, and affects Lutie's eight year old son, who tries to take up shining shoes like other boys on the street. Lutie's description of the division between her and white people as a wall, erected by them, not her, but visible to her, not them, reminded me of Sara Ahmed's work; she often writes about walls that obstruct some bodies and not others. Lutie is baffled by the fact that white women are worried she might have an affair with one of their 'thin unhappy husbands': 'she wondered why they had the idea that all colored girls were whores'. The looks full of contempt and assumptions from white people make her 'never fe[el] human until she reache[s] Harlem'. At the time, formal segregation confined black people to the neighbourhood, though of course, white people own the properties rented out so expensively, as well as the shops. They also take the jobs - one of the voices Petry takes on is that of a disinterested, lazy white teacher who works in a Harlem school, full of hate for her charges, and so ashamed to work in such poor conditions that she keeps her workplace secret. Lutie also sees the neighbourhood as a bad environment, but her attitudes contrast with the white teacher's, who sees black people inherently as the problem. Lutie sees clearly what is wrong: there are no jobs for black men, so the women go out to work in low-paying domestic service, and the men become idle. Why is there no outside work for the men and why don't they take on the burden of house-work and child care? Simple: white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. To broaden the perspective, the other main characters include the superintendant of the building Lutie moves into, who has become malevolent and obsessive from spending too much time living in cellars, and a middle aged domestic service worker who, now that she has found a way of living rent-free, will do almost anything to maintain the situation. These characters have highly developed, idiosyncratic voices; Petry calls them startlingly into being. Mrs Hedges, who sits watching the street and makes an adequate living from the sex workers who make use of her apartment, is a complex, interesting character, seen very differently by Lutie, the super and other people on the street. She is kind and protective, but at times reveals an exploitative attitude to other people that is reflected in her unfeeling eyes. Lutie's attractiveness, to black men who are meant to be helping her (because they have taken on positions that place this obligation on them) and white men who are gatekeepers to all the exit routes from her oppressive situation, has a huge weight in the narrative. At times I felt this was too important, but I started to question my white feminist perspective, and to think that this was deliberate, not just a prop to make the plot work, but important for two reasons, firstly because the attractiveness of black women is maligned by white supremacist media and advertising, which positions the white woman as the ideal of attractiveness and femininity. Here, Lutie is considered beautiful by everyone, and desired by black and white men, belying the trope. Secondly, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy defines how Lutie's attractiveness will function; men long to own her body, and constantly leverage their different forms of power over her to try to fulfil their desire. The reflection 'she wondered why they had the idea that all colored girls were whores' becomes increasingly ironic as the constantly arising pressures, created by the actions or complicity of those whites, pushing Lutie into sex work stack up. As well as being of great social and political import, this novel was nearly impossible for me to put down, despite its simple plot. I just had to know what would happen next. If I were writing the blurb I'd call it 'compulsive and compulsory'.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Hard, hard, hard. That was the only way to be--so hard that nothing, the street, the house, the people--nothing would ever be able to touch her. Some books just make you want to scream with indignation, and Ann Petry’s The Street is one of them. I knew what to expect from this novel. Written in 1946 at the height of Jim Crow and before the passing of the Civil Rights Act, there was little hope that this would be anything but a distressing chronicle of life for the blacks sentenced to living o Hard, hard, hard. That was the only way to be--so hard that nothing, the street, the house, the people--nothing would ever be able to touch her. Some books just make you want to scream with indignation, and Ann Petry’s The Street is one of them. I knew what to expect from this novel. Written in 1946 at the height of Jim Crow and before the passing of the Civil Rights Act, there was little hope that this would be anything but a distressing chronicle of life for the blacks sentenced to living on the poverty-stricken streets of Harlem. I knew what to expect, but that did not lessen the anguish I felt while reading it. When we meet Lutie Johnson, she is a single parent, with hopes and aspirations that reach beyond the struggling reality of her life with her eight year old son, Bub. She is beautiful and shapely and much desired by the men around her; a ruthless bunch, but many of whom would have also desired another life had they been given any choice. Bub is young and innocent and just on the verge of being introduced to the cruelties of the world he inhabits. It must be hate that made them wrap all Negroes up in a neat package labeled ‘colored’, a package that called for certain kinds of jobs, and a special kind of treatment. But she really didn’t know what it was. If you looked at them from inside the framework of a fat weekly salary, and you thought of colored people as naturally criminal, then you didn’t really see what any Negro looked like. You couldn’t, because the Negro was never an individual. He was a threat, or an animal, or a curse, or a blight, or a joke. Petry’s observations are brutal and so hard to read about, all the more so because they ring so true. I could barely comprehend the depth of the despair and hopelessness for these people. I have seen poverty, up-close and personal, but this is more than poverty, it is squallor imposed from without. You cannot help praying that Lutie and Bub will be the exceptions and find the magic door that leads to escape; you cannot help wondering if anyone will be listening to the prayer. Bub, for me, was the central character of this story, because he represented for me all that Lutie had to hope for, all she had to lose, and, sadly, what every one of these beleaguered men once were-- malleable boys, sweet boys, children thrown away. This book is not perfect. I could easily point out defects if I made an effort to do so, but I think this is an important book that rises above any flaws. It is so honest--a kind of miracle when you consider how ill-received it might have been in its time, for shining a light on such a deplorable practice of this society. It is a debut effort, to boot. It was the first book written by a black woman to sell over a million copies. That told me that it hit a chord with a lot of people who were either embroiled in this life or witness to it. It saddens me that it has fallen into obscurity; with only 7,160 ratings on Goodreads. For today’s reader, I would hope that it both highlights the ways in which things that should have changed have not, but also how much progress we have made toward a goal that we might someday actually reach if we continue to work at it. A girl like Lutie Johnson might still be lost in our society, despite all her efforts, but she might also achieve all the dreams that she has, a feat virtually impossible, indeed literally prohibited, in her time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    What an ending! I didn’t see it coming, but it did feel like Lutie Johnson (the main character) was teetering on the edge since page one and I guess they pushed her too many times. I feel like The Street relates so much so to the here and now. It’s 70 years later and has many things changed? Not really. This book was an excercise in how not to lose your mind; but it’s so much more than that. It’s about how microaggressions and racism can push a woman to the extreme ends of sanity and rage.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laysee

    Until I joined the Obscure Reading Group on Goodreads, I had not heard of American writer Ann Petry (1908 to 1997) nor her resounding debut novel, The Street. First published in 1946, it is the first book by a female African American author that has sold more than a million copies. The marvel of it all is that its relevance has not diminished over the years and can, in fact, be felt even more poignantly today than ever before. The setting is Harlem, New York City; 1944 just after World War II. Th Until I joined the Obscure Reading Group on Goodreads, I had not heard of American writer Ann Petry (1908 to 1997) nor her resounding debut novel, The Street. First published in 1946, it is the first book by a female African American author that has sold more than a million copies. The marvel of it all is that its relevance has not diminished over the years and can, in fact, be felt even more poignantly today than ever before. The setting is Harlem, New York City; 1944 just after World War II. The jewel of this story is Mrs. Lutie Johnson, a single, beautiful, black woman who is seeking a better life and future for herself and her 8-year-old son, Bub. The novel opens on a blustery winter’s day with Lutie hunting for a her own place to live in hopes of removing her child from the contamination of the home she has been sharing with her bootlegger father and his trampy girlfriend. Despite her poverty, Lutie is optimistic and confident. She derives hope from Benjamin Franklin’s conviction that “anybody could be rich if he wanted to and worked hard enough and figured it out carefully enough.” I cheered Lutie on in her hopes of securing a better life. However, 116th Street is no haven. Cheap housing in a seedy neighborhood is all she can afford. Lutie senses straightaway that Jones, the superintendent of the apartment building, has the roving eyes of a sexual pervert. I mentally willed Lutie not to take the tenement room. How could alternative housing on this street be any safer for Lutie and Bub? Petry was very convincing in conveying Lutie’s vulnerability, her beauty serving to attract only unwanted attention from predatory men. Besides Lutie, there are other colored individuals who too are well acquainted with poverty, racism, sexism, and social injustice. Petry adopted shifting points of view, which shone a light into the innermost thoughts of her characters. It was a brilliant device that helped to confirm the gut reactions the women felt instinctively toward a sexual predator like Jones. By peeling back their scarred history, Petry laid bare the characters’ desperation, anger, bitterness, fear, and pain. Min (Jones’ abused live-in girlfriend) and Mrs. Hedges (the black woman who runs a brothel in the apartment building) have lived through scourging and fire, respectively. Shockingly, the black people who have managed to survive hardship (such as Mrs. Hedges and Boots Smith, the band leader who runs a casino for Junto, a white man) become oppressors who manipulate and exploit their own kind. The impoverished black individual lives within the impregnable prison of destitution. Lutie’s capacity to operate as a free agent is an illusion. Petry wrote palpably about racial animosity in 1940s NY City. The white people speak openly of their distrust of the black community, the women assuming their husbands are never safe with beautiful black women. White teachers in Harlem despise their black students who then are socialized from a young age to hate those who treat them like scum. No wonder children like Bub take pleasure in snubbing their teacher, “Miss Rinner, the sinner.” The black men are categorically unable to find jobs. Even in wartimes, there is a separate black army to fight the Germans. The prejudice and hatred between the black and white folks is mutual, deep-seated, and laced with the bitterest gall and venom. Lutie’s aspirations to earn sufficient money to move to a better neighborhood provided the momentum for this story, the plot thickening as the forces of evil on 116th Street close in on her and her son. Petry told a riveting story that kept me on tender hooks, hoping in vain for their deliverance. It also made me very angry at scumbags like Jones, Boots, and Junto, and wish they will get their comeuppance. Like Diane, one of our Obscure Reading Group members, said to our amusement, “Some people just need killin'.” This saintly reviewer agrees. The Street is a powerful social commentary on the irreparable physical, emotional, and psychological damage that individuals suffer from being trapped not just in airless, dingy houses but in a divisive society that persists in making racial prejudice and discrimination a way of life. Interestingly, when I finished reading this book, I was listening to an unrelated podcast on ugliness and beauty, and a line caught my attention: “We can be equal only when we are all different.” Profound but true. Read The Street. As a debut work, it is not flawless, but it has a very strong voice. You hear the sorrows of the colored folks during the Jim Crow era of American history. A book like this has broadened my understanding of what it means to live the life of minority individuals reduced to nothing more than the dust of the earth - despised, demeaned, and dehumanized.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Ted

    155th book of 2020. The most scathing comment I ever received from a lecturer about my own writing was this: “Don’t confuse being literary with having no plot”—straight through the chainmail. The Street is a novel that is both brilliantly written and plotted; I don’t often mention a book being “well-plotted” because although many probably are, I don’t notice them as I did here. Petry has a true gift for moving between characters and their heads, never leaving the reader confused (that’s the first 155th book of 2020. The most scathing comment I ever received from a lecturer about my own writing was this: “Don’t confuse being literary with having no plot”—straight through the chainmail. The Street is a novel that is both brilliantly written and plotted; I don’t often mention a book being “well-plotted” because although many probably are, I don’t notice them as I did here. Petry has a true gift for moving between characters and their heads, never leaving the reader confused (that’s the first challenge) or unsatisfied (the ultimate challenge: to be stuck in a character’s head we don’t care for, or feeling like we are being drawn away from the action elsewhere are common feelings with perspective hopping); I felt neither of these feelings for the 400 pages Petry kept me. “The Street was a literary event in 1946, the first novel by a black woman to sell more than a million copies…Her work endures not only because it illuminates reality, but because it harnesses the power of fiction to supplant it.” —New York Times The roster is small: Lutie Johnson, single mother in 1940s Harlem, trying to raise her 8-year-old son, Bub, amidst poverty, racism and “predators at every turn”. Bub, young and naïve, afraid of the dark, and caught between being a child and a man. Jones, the super of their building (116th street, Harlem), a rather mean, dog-kicking, neurotic, jealous man. His girlfriend, Min, who is caught with a man who is both obsessive and violent, looking for escape and freedom (something all the characters yearn in one way or another, making the novel suffocating). Mrs Hedges, a woman who lives upstairs, like the Big Brother of the street—watching. Junto and Boots, two men who are drawn into the story through Lutie’s desperation of earning money. ”You don’t want to fight?” “Why should I?” “I don’t know. I’m asking you.” He had pulled a chair out and sat down across from Junto. “Listen, Junto,” he said. “They can wave flags. They can tell me the Germans cut off baby’s behinds and rape women and turn black men into slaves. They can tell me any damn thing. None of it means nothing.” “Why?” “Because, no matter how scared they are of Germans, they’re still more scared of me. I’m black, see? And they hate Germans, but they hate me worse. If that wasn’t so they wouldn’t have a separate army for black men. That’s one for the book. Sending a black army to Europe to fight Germans. Mostly with brooms and shovels.” … “Don’t talk to me about Germans. They’re only doing the same thing in Europe that’s been done in this country since the time it started.” With a smattering of other characters, The Street is made up almost entirely from the names above, dipping into their heads, their lives and ultimately, a great number of flashbacks too (also, risky; it is a miracle this book doesn’t fail). Petry effortlessly and seamlessly glides through their heads and their pasts as they struggle, in their own ways, around 116th street and Harlem itself. Though the novel is “realist”, in the way Raymond Carver is described as realist, there is a shocking amount of tension in the novel. It is 400 pages long but felt like 200. I was uncomfortable, angry and in awe for the entire novel. Yes, she [Lutie] thought, if you were born black and not too ugly, this is what you get, this is what you find. It was a pity he hadn’t lived back in the days of slavery, so he could have raided the slave quarters for a likely wench any hour of the day or night. This is the superior race, she said to herself, take a good long look at him: black, oily hair; slack, gross body; grease spots on his vest; wrinkled shirt collar; cigar ashes on his suit; small pig eyes engulfed in the fat of his face. A literary, social commentary, page-turner attacking race, sexism and the American Dream in a single novel; it is a rare book: tense, sad, ambitious, and no doubt, seminal. I was too angry to be sad while I was reading it, but that had worn off by the end; by then my anger and my sadness were level with one another.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Original Review: January 2019 “Her voice had a thin thread of sadness running through it that made the song important, that made it tell a story that wasn’t in the words—a story of despair, of loneliness, of frustration.” It’s easy to think you understand the impacts of racism, the need to break the cycle of poverty, the ramifications of oppression. But what art can do, what fiction specifically can do, is enhance that understanding, by bringing you right up to the reality of it--as close as you Original Review: January 2019 “Her voice had a thin thread of sadness running through it that made the song important, that made it tell a story that wasn’t in the words—a story of despair, of loneliness, of frustration.” It’s easy to think you understand the impacts of racism, the need to break the cycle of poverty, the ramifications of oppression. But what art can do, what fiction specifically can do, is enhance that understanding, by bringing you right up to the reality of it--as close as you can get without living it yourself. Ann Petry has done this by giving us a story of a particular woman: Lutie Johnson, living in a particular place: Harlem, at a particular time: the years after World War II. Lutie is dealing with her own particular oppressions on a very particularly menacing street. From the beginning of the book, where Petry paints a picture of the wind kicking up the street’s garbage, she forces the reader right into Lutie’s shoes. Then we go on to be in the shoes of several other characters, and we see what drives them--what is going on behind their actions. This book reminded me of Middlemarch. Petry has a talent similar to George Eliot’s: the ability to draw out empathy in the reader. The Street made me angry. I’m angry about the injustice of that time, which is the injustice that continues today. And I’m angry that this book, published in 1946, did not immediately become required reading, especially for younger readers in whom a foundation of compassion and understanding could have been established. It isn’t an easy story to read. In Lutie Johnson’s shoes is no place you want to be. This is painful realism, but so beautifully told that I was entranced from the first word. Read it. Re-read in October 2020 to take part in a discussion with the Obscure Reading Group. I learned so much and really enjoyed hearing the different thoughts and reactions from group members, particularly regarding the ending of the book. I still love the ending. I think it’s honest. Life is unpredictable, it can be shocking and it doesn’t always make sense. One of the things I know about writing fiction though, is that things that happen in real life often don’t work in a fictional narrative. When we try to fit them in, they’re almost always sniffed out by the reader. “But this really happened,” my writing friends and I object when the criticism comes in. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t work. So it’s not surprising to me that the ending of this novel doesn’t work for everyone. For me, it was a breath of fresh air. This stuff happens. And it happens because the environment we find ourselves in can really have a huge impact on us--can change us, can upset the fabric of who we are. That is what I think Petry was trying to express, and it’s a fact that I was thrilled to see unfold before me in this gripping novel. Reading this a second time, I found the oppression even more stifling. “It made her feel that she was looking through a hole in a wall at some enchanted garden. She could see, she could hear, she spoke the language of the people in the garden, but she couldn’t get past the wall. The figures on the other side of it loomed up life-size and they could see her, but there was this wall in between which prevented them from mingling on an equal footing. The people on the other side of the wall knew less about her than she knew about them.” I hope to read many more books from the viewpoint of oppressed people. How true it is, that “they,” whichever oppressed group you want to insert here, know so much more about “us,” meaning any of us for whom being oppressed is not the primary frustration of our lives, than we do about them. We need to really look past the walls around us to what’s on the other side, and exploring that in fiction is such an enjoyable first step.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I'm hesitant to give this four stars for a couple of reasons: one, because I know it was flawed in certain important ways, but to me the stars have to do with how much I personally enjoyed a book, not how technically "good" it was, so I think that's okay. The main reason I'm afraid of singing this book's praises too loudly is that I really loved it, and being able to see its problems and knowing other people might not think it's good really hurts my feelings. I feel protective of this book, and I'm hesitant to give this four stars for a couple of reasons: one, because I know it was flawed in certain important ways, but to me the stars have to do with how much I personally enjoyed a book, not how technically "good" it was, so I think that's okay. The main reason I'm afraid of singing this book's praises too loudly is that I really loved it, and being able to see its problems and knowing other people might not think it's good really hurts my feelings. I feel protective of this book, and it upsets me to think about other people maligning it. So please don't read this unless you're going to like it! The Street is Ann Petry's 1946 novel about single mother Lutie Johnson's efforts to raise her son and escape poverty while living on 116h Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in Harlem. Young, black, beautiful, poor, and socially isolated, Lutie is constantly and acutely aware of the ways in which her existence and her son's future are limited and crushed by the forces of racism and class. I am sure that today's college students really freak out about this book for its sophisticated mid-twentieth-century examination of the paradigm of intersectionality: race! class! gender! It's all here, in this artfully structured novel that moves easily among the perspectives of a handful of the Street's denizens. I found the characters in this book to be brilliantly crafted. Petry has us see through the eyes not just of Lutie but of her eight-year-old son; their malevolent, predatory, mentally-deranged super; the super's pathetic, oppressed, but resilient companion; the building's massive and fire-scarred, red-kerchiefed madam; and other characters whose individuality comes to life, even as Petry lends them each the dignity of her distinctive and -- I thought -- quite beautiful voice. That's really hard to do, and this book accomplished it. The characters make decisions and behave in ways that are often strange, morally questionable, or undoubtably wrong, but the author successfully makes them so human that we understand their reasoning and can't fully judge them. The Street suffered from two major problems: one, social novel syndrome, by which I mean that Petry's obvious efforts to show the effects of racism and injustice on individuals' lives did often overwhelm the story and get too annoyingly obvious. Every page has Lutie's meditations on the the effects of racism, poverty, and segregated urban slums, and it did get tiresome and undermined the book's power. But a lot of this might have been due to its other flaw, first novel syndrome: The Street was Petry's first book, and it has many marks of that including unnecessary repetition, a failure at crucial points to trust the reader, and what I thought was a hasty, melodramatic, and unbelievable ending. I'm definitely interested in reading Petry's other books to see what she was like when she matured more as a writer. Her gifts of character and description are, I thought, sensational. I can picture Lutie's apartment, the building, and her street nearly as vividly as I can see my own, and all the characters were as physically and nearly as psychologically real to me as the people I encounter in daily life. Since few books can convey a physical environment to me so well, I really found this to be special. I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in a depiction of Harlem in the days before drugs (on a wide scale), guns, housing projects, white gentrification, and extensive social services and welfare benefits. I'm pretty familiar with the neighborhood she's talking about, and it was very interesting to see how things have and have not changed since the 1940s. This is one of the better novels I've read about Black American urban life in the pre-Civil-Rights era, and I might recommend it for that to some parties. But the real reason I thought The Street was so good was on its merits as a work of fiction. While I know the social novel stuff could turn off a lot of readers, I felt the same delight from this as from a good children's storybook -- a very disturbing, upsetting children's storybook with a lot of sex and violence and human suffering. But it almost seemed illustrated, that's how vivid it was. I will definitely be reading more by Ann Petry and I'll recommend this book despite my concerns, though if you think it's bad I don't really want to hear about it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    A blurb on the back cover of my edition calls The Street "as much a historical document as it is a novel". I think that is accurate. The novel records the corrosive effects of racism, poverty and sexism on Lutie Johnson, a single mother, living in Harlem in the mid 1940s. The grim existence of Lutie and others on the street is unrelenting - and left me reeling. A blurb on the back cover of my edition calls The Street "as much a historical document as it is a novel". I think that is accurate. The novel records the corrosive effects of racism, poverty and sexism on Lutie Johnson, a single mother, living in Harlem in the mid 1940s. The grim existence of Lutie and others on the street is unrelenting - and left me reeling.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lulu

    This book was published over 60 ago. 60 years ago, a single black mother in Harlem had the same exact heartaches that a single black mother in the United States is having right now. We have all been affected by "The Street" in some way, shape, or form and the fact that this physical and literal "street" still exist is just.....well it's sad. This story is so real, so tragically beautiful, so humbling....I'm really at a loss for words. This book was published over 60 ago. 60 years ago, a single black mother in Harlem had the same exact heartaches that a single black mother in the United States is having right now. We have all been affected by "The Street" in some way, shape, or form and the fact that this physical and literal "street" still exist is just.....well it's sad. This story is so real, so tragically beautiful, so humbling....I'm really at a loss for words.

  18. 4 out of 5

    luce

    “A woman living alone didn’t stand much chance.” Ann Petry is a terrific writer. The precise way in which she articulates the thoughts and various state of minds of her characters brought to my mind the writing of Nella Larsen and Edith Wharton. But whereas I could stand the cynicism and tragic finales of Wharton's novels (in which usually horrible things happen to privileged, and often horrible, individuals) I had a hard time stomaching the ending in The Street. Set in 1940s The Street follows “A woman living alone didn’t stand much chance.” Ann Petry is a terrific writer. The precise way in which she articulates the thoughts and various state of minds of her characters brought to my mind the writing of Nella Larsen and Edith Wharton. But whereas I could stand the cynicism and tragic finales of Wharton's novels (in which usually horrible things happen to privileged, and often horrible, individuals) I had a hard time stomaching the ending in The Street. Set in 1940s The Street follows Lutie Johnson, a single black mother, who moves on 116th Street in Harlem. Lutie is a resilient woman who has come to believe that through hard-work and self-sacrifice she can attain a level of happiness and prosperity. She also happens to be beautiful: white and black men treat like a sexual object, white women regard her with open contempt, and other black women tend to be jealous or suspicious of her. Lutie's daily existence is punctuated by racism, sexism, and classism. Witnessing the violence, desperation, and death around her reinforces her desire to escape her neighbourhood and the growingly inappropriate behaviour of her building's super, an unstable man named Jones. Through flashbacks we learn more of the characters' history, such as the dissolution of Lutie's marriage and Jones' time in the navy. Scenes take their time to unfold as the narrative is focused less on action and more on character interiority. Petry allows her readers to view the world through their eyes and at times this can be quite jarring. Jones' disturbed thoughts are troubling indeed and his growing obsession with Lutie is guaranteed to make readers as uncomfortable as reading from Humbert Humbert's perspective. Petry demonstrates how gifted a writer she is by outlining his skewed worldview and disordered thinking, so much so that I was afraid of being inside his head. Petry also gives two other women in Lutie's building a voice: there is the watchful—and formidable—Mrs. Hedges who runs a brothel and Min, a seemingly docile woman who lives with—and is abused by—Jones. There are also portions of the narrative centred around Boots, yet another man who wants Lutie for himself. Petry once again showcases her skill by making us sympathise, however briefly, with a character such as Boots (who happens to be a rather reprehensible human being). Throughout the course of the narrative Lutie tries to overcome obstacles and hardships. Her dignity and strength made her into an admirable character. As a single black mother Lutie is subjected to a myriad of injustices, and as her preoccupation with money—and leaving 'the street'—grows, she unwittingly pushes her son towards Jones. Petry brings to life—more for worse than better—the city in which her characters move in. She renders the cacophony on the streets as well as the atmosphere within closed spaces (like the charged and suffocating atmosphere in Jones' apartment). I really liked the rhythm of Petry prose, created in part thanks to the repetition of certain specific words, phrases, and ideas. While I loved how perceptive Petry was in registering the nuances of her characters' different moods and thoughts, I was exhausted by how relentlessly depressing her story was (throughout the narrative women are slapped around, threatened with physical assault, intimidated, or are treated as if belonging to a lesser species). Given Petry's disenchanted portrayal of the American dream, I wasn't expecting a rosy finale. Still, I was quite bitter about the way she ends things. While I understand that it is a realistic ending, I didn't find the Bub/Jones situation to be all that credible. Readers who prefer fast-paced or plot-driven novel may want to skip this one but those who are interested in a meticulous character study should definitely consider picking this long-overlooked classic up. While I'm not necessarily 'happy' to have read this book (I'm not a sadist), Petry's adroit social commentary and captivating prose are worth reading. Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    A phenomenal story. "The street" itself is actually one of the novel's main characters, taking on a life of its own throughout the story. As noted on page 323 in Lutie Johnson's thoughts, referring to her Harlem ghetto neighborhood, "Streets like the one she lived on were no accident. They were the North's lynch mobs...the methods the big cities used to keep Negroes in their place." (323) Not only that, but "and while you were out working to pay the rent on this stinking, rotten place, why, the s A phenomenal story. "The street" itself is actually one of the novel's main characters, taking on a life of its own throughout the story. As noted on page 323 in Lutie Johnson's thoughts, referring to her Harlem ghetto neighborhood, "Streets like the one she lived on were no accident. They were the North's lynch mobs...the methods the big cities used to keep Negroes in their place." (323) Not only that, but "and while you were out working to pay the rent on this stinking, rotten place, why, the street outside played nursemaid to your kid. It became both mother and father and trained your kid for you, and it was an evil father and a vicious mother..." (407). I won't go through the plot here, because it is so eloquently summarized by others here and elsewhere on the internet, but throughout the book, the street took on a life of its own, providing the impetus for Lutie's actions. All she wanted was her little slice of the American dream for herself and her son, but the more she attempted to leave the street behind her, the more it hemmed her in. And outside the street existed factors that put and kept people in the street: unemployment, racism and distrust, economic oppression. This book is a very gritty and unapologetic look at the Harlem ghetto of the 1940s, and I think one of the most revealing scenes (meaning one that really struck me) in this novel was that in which the Harlem schoolteacher's thoughts were laid bare. You kind of have to wonder how far we've actually come from the world portrayed in this book -- the issues here are largely still relevant. The Street is not a happy, feel-good type of novel, so if that's what you want, then skip it. This book really got under my skin and I know it's one I'll think about for some time. It's also one I'd recommend to anyone, and would list under the "don't miss this book" category. The writing is most excellent; the reader can actually envision the streets filled with rubbish, the squalidness of the apartments, and can feel the total anguish that Lutie felt throughout the story. The characterizations are excellent as well. Highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    4.5 stars. Grim and depressing, Ann Petry’s fantastic book wonderfully described the ever-increasing stresses upon Lutie Johnson. A single mother trying to raise her son well and give them both better options than their current situation, I felt her exhaustion, fear, anger and frustration with all the ways a black woman and single mother with little money was constantly kept living on the edge. Lutie is well characterized, and I felt sadness but also anger at everyone trying to take advantage of 4.5 stars. Grim and depressing, Ann Petry’s fantastic book wonderfully described the ever-increasing stresses upon Lutie Johnson. A single mother trying to raise her son well and give them both better options than their current situation, I felt her exhaustion, fear, anger and frustration with all the ways a black woman and single mother with little money was constantly kept living on the edge. Lutie is well characterized, and I felt sadness but also anger at everyone trying to take advantage of her and her son. The story’s dark ending capped off all the other horrible things that happened in the book, but I am still so glad I read this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Ann Petry's 1946 Harlem classic is the book I wish A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was. Both are about poor folks, and both are wonderfully geographically specific, but Tree Grows is terribly sentimental, and The Street is...not. The lady version of Native Son wouldn't be the worst way to describe it. "The men stood around and the women worked," is Petry's thesis. "The men left the women and the women went on working and the kids were left alone." And "the women work because for years now the white folk Ann Petry's 1946 Harlem classic is the book I wish A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was. Both are about poor folks, and both are wonderfully geographically specific, but Tree Grows is terribly sentimental, and The Street is...not. The lady version of Native Son wouldn't be the worst way to describe it. "The men stood around and the women worked," is Petry's thesis. "The men left the women and the women went on working and the kids were left alone." And "the women work because for years now the white folks haven't liked to give black men jobs that paid enough for them to support their families." That's a complicated thesis, and I'm in no way qualified to judge how much of a point she's got, but she certainly spends the whole book building a very convincing case. There's a certain Furious Stylesishness to The Street - a didacticism that gets on your nerves a little. It's not that Petry's telling instead of showing - she's showing, too. She's doing a good enough job showing that she could maybe have done away with a little bit of the telling. But it's nowhere near as preachy as Native Son; as a whole novel, you'd really have to say it works better. Here's a Google street view of the exact street this is set on - 116th between 7th and 8th. That block is now super hip and thoroughly gentrified.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This is a story about a young black woman with an eight-year-old son. Separated from her husband, back home in Jamaica, she is determined to make a better life for herself and her son. They live in Harlem. The year is 1944. Will she succeed? The mother is named Lutie. Her son, he’s called Bub. They live in a small top floor apartment in a ramshackle tenement on 116th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue. Having worked first as a live-in domestic maid in Connecticut, then four years at a steam laundr This is a story about a young black woman with an eight-year-old son. Separated from her husband, back home in Jamaica, she is determined to make a better life for herself and her son. They live in Harlem. The year is 1944. Will she succeed? The mother is named Lutie. Her son, he’s called Bub. They live in a small top floor apartment in a ramshackle tenement on 116th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue. Having worked first as a live-in domestic maid in Connecticut, then four years at a steam laundry while studying at a business school to pass a civil service exam, she has scraped together enough savings to be able to rent the said apartment. She desperately wanted to get her son out of the apartment where they had been living with her widowed father and girlfriend. They distilled whiskey and saw absolutely nothing wrong with a child of eight imbibing the liquor too. The question is which residence is better. When her son comes home there is no one there to meet him. After school, he is left to occupy himself out on the street, abounding in temptations and dangers. The 116th street apartment is sizzling hot in the summer and frigid in the winter. Its narrow corridors are dark, gloomy and smelly, even for Lutie. Think how they are perceived by her young son! A whore spends her time sitting on the first floor window ledge, spying on neighbors, and the building’s janitor is a vile, lecherous figure clearly determined to corner Lutie. Lutie is tall, slender and pretty. Being pretty in such circumstances is by no means an advantage! Racism, sexism, classism and the social injustices that exude from them permeate this novel. The reader is shaken to the core. Watch and see what happens. Even those with the (view spoiler)[best intentions are doomed (hide spoiler)] . It is understandable that one feels sorry for Lutie and Bub, since they are trying to improve themselves. The author makes readers also empathize with the most despicable of characters, and there are many in the novel. This is the author’s true accomplishment. It is this that provides the strongest indictment against sexism, racism and classism! The book’s strength lies in the author’s ability to criticize not the characters, not even the worst characters, but instead the elements of society which create them. Both the unfolding of the plot and the prose are excellent. The prose is descriptive. There is suspense. With all your heart, you are hoping for things to go right. I like that the book focuses on a woman’s situation, while it at the same time grippingly reveals the plight of men. It points an accusatory finger at the racial discrimination of all Blacks. Reading this alternately breaks your heart and makes you furious. What was it like to be black and poor in Harlem back in the 1940s? Are you curious? Then you must read the book. You will not be disappointed. It is extremely disturbing the extent to which the book remains relevant still today! This book deserves to be as well known as Richard Wright‘s Native Son. Jeannette Robinson narration of the audbiobook is fantastic. The intonations she uses for the different characters are perfect. Male and female, young and old, all are well intoned. Five stars for the narration performance. The speed is nice and slow, which I personally happen to like! ************************'*** *The Street 4 stars *Checkup TBR soon *The Narrows TBR soon *Native Son 4 stars by Richard Wright

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    It’s clear that I am more in the minority here than ever before, so I suspect I will have to be especially diplomatic regarding my thoughts. I wanted to love this. I really, really did. The Street has a compelling setup: the journey of a young woman struggling for independence amid the poverty and brutality of 1940s Harlem, all the while charged with the determination to protect her young son. Petry’s tale is uncannily prescient, and her eloquence in delineating racial dissonance and female sexua It’s clear that I am more in the minority here than ever before, so I suspect I will have to be especially diplomatic regarding my thoughts. I wanted to love this. I really, really did. The Street has a compelling setup: the journey of a young woman struggling for independence amid the poverty and brutality of 1940s Harlem, all the while charged with the determination to protect her young son. Petry’s tale is uncannily prescient, and her eloquence in delineating racial dissonance and female sexual autonomy is astounding. The atmosphere is cultivated well, and the characters are (on the whole) convincing and deftly drawn. To a greater extent, the issue lies within my own personal tastes as opposed to the novel itself; I lost interest. Petry’s writing is often wordy and repetitive - particularly during the exploration of Lutie’s character and values. The tension within the novel’s plot is astonishing in itself, but would have benefited immensely from tauter prose. This more than anything may have convinced me to keep reading. Whilst she is a sympathetic character, I felt that Lutie lacked empathy, especially regarding her son in his endless effort to support her. Bub is the innocent of the novel and his fate is devastating; I only wish that Petry had treated him with a greater dignity, especially through the medium of Lutie’s treatment of him. Having lost interest at about the halfway mark, I visited the final chapter to judge whether I would be justified in persevering. The ending is abrupt and rather illogical, so I gave this one a miss. Please don’t crucify me. With thanks to the publisher for the proof copy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Britt

    This booked moved patiently and by the end I was floored. GREAT BOOK!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    On the radio this week, I heard someone quote someone (and wish I could recall the NAME of that someone) who said that Jim Crow hasn't gone away. He's still here, only as James Crow, Esquire, in the courts, working his ass off to make voting harder for Americans -- especially minority Americans -- in the courts. And it's working, too, mostly in the South and in deeply Conservative and Republican Trumpist states. While Jim Crow isn't mentioned by name in Ann Petry's novel, he's lurking on every co On the radio this week, I heard someone quote someone (and wish I could recall the NAME of that someone) who said that Jim Crow hasn't gone away. He's still here, only as James Crow, Esquire, in the courts, working his ass off to make voting harder for Americans -- especially minority Americans -- in the courts. And it's working, too, mostly in the South and in deeply Conservative and Republican Trumpist states. While Jim Crow isn't mentioned by name in Ann Petry's novel, he's lurking on every corner of The Street. Yes, we're supposedly in Harlem during the war years of the 40s, but denizens of 2020 will recognize the protagonist, Lutie's, life easily. She is a prisoner of poverty as a poor person, of gender as a single mother, and of race as a black woman. Really, now. What's changed? Some things, you can argue, but then you recall the newspaper headlines we read these days, and how hard some men in suits are working to keep minorities down, to keep James Crow, Esq., well-heeled and all that. Turning to The Street as a book: When reading novels, I often consider the parts, the whole, and how they blend. Illogical as it may seem, I sometimes like all the parts, but not the whole. Conversely, I sometimes like the whole but take issue with the parts. It's all about architecture, and that's a talent more experienced novelists either get good at through practice or never do. The Street is Exhibit A of what I call a wonderful parts novel. The set pieces in the shifting points of view were compelling, to say the least. They also interacted (some architecture for you) in that you saw similar scenes and time periods from varying characters' POV. Were all the characters equal in their characterization? Not exactly. The Superintendent of an apartment building named Jones was given the most time because he, more than any other, allowed author Petry to express her animus toward a certain kind of male, namely the sexual predator. Due to the shifting points of view, the readers spend some uncomfortable moments in this character's head, but the effectiveness of his characterization is dulled when Petry employs Christian symbolism, namely a cross which causes Jones to recoil like Count Dracula in a B-film. Other characters, with less time on stage, were nicely done if not rounded much due to lack of press: Mrs. Hedges the Madame, Min the mistress of Jones, Boots the band leader, Junto the white Harlem bar owner, and, in an appearance that appeared gratuitous at best, 8-year-old son Bub's frazzled white teacher. The parts I mentioned drove the novel to impressive heights, providing a narrative arc that compelled me to turn pages. In the end, though, I scratched my head over the final scene. Yes, it looped both Boots and Junto into the Jones narrative of men as little more than sexual predators, but it also upended everything Lutie stood for and undermined a lot of the careful work that went into her characterization as protagonist. I'm not a fan of tying all loose ends together OR of "they lived happily ever after" finishes. That said, this ending showed that the beginning novelist (this is Petry's first book) still had work to do in the architecture aspect of writing. That is, I expected that the book would come back to the many loose threads left by all these characters, who were so important to the narrative. The sudden finish, which I cannot reveal as it would serve as a spoiler, ruined all that. Jolting, it was. John Gardner once said that the fictive dream must be "vivid and continuous." I give Petry high marks for the vivid part, but feel she lost the "continuous" when I was pulled out of her fictive dream to my chair and my book, where I thought, "What the hell...?"

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ila

    Finally I have a new favourite! After a whole month of just average reads this was a God sent. Disillusionment arcs are my actual favourite (have you heard of Michael Corleone?) but they're really difficult to execute. I am glad that The Street didn't disappoint me in Lutie's descent. The cast is shockingly small, yet is rich in detail and leaves enough unsaid. The complex racial tensions in a post WWII America, the overwhelming misogyny, and most importantly: the challenges and degradation of p Finally I have a new favourite! After a whole month of just average reads this was a God sent. Disillusionment arcs are my actual favourite (have you heard of Michael Corleone?) but they're really difficult to execute. I am glad that The Street didn't disappoint me in Lutie's descent. The cast is shockingly small, yet is rich in detail and leaves enough unsaid. The complex racial tensions in a post WWII America, the overwhelming misogyny, and most importantly: the challenges and degradation of poverty are skillfully interwoven. Lutie is a strong woman who tries hard to rescue herself and her son from the miserable street they live-a veritable playground of prostitution, drugs, brawls, and general crime. The world she inhabits however, proves too strong in its stern, unyielding, sometimes vicious ways of upholding the status quo. That makes her outburst in the end all the more powerful. The concluding scene is fairly open-ended. I believe that Lutie is resigned to her fate, her failure to secure her son from harm but for a moment she gave full voice to her rage and broke the shackles of society.

  27. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    A Second Visit To The Street Many years ago, I read Ann Petry's novel "The Street" (1946) with a book group. As often happens, people disagreed in their responses to the book. I was among those that, on balance, didn't like it. In the intervening years, as the book group and my reading continued, I had the feeling that I had been too harsh on "The Street" and should read it again by myself. I finally did so with a new book from the Library of America which includes "The Street" together with Petr A Second Visit To The Street Many years ago, I read Ann Petry's novel "The Street" (1946) with a book group. As often happens, people disagreed in their responses to the book. I was among those that, on balance, didn't like it. In the intervening years, as the book group and my reading continued, I had the feeling that I had been too harsh on "The Street" and should read it again by myself. I finally did so with a new book from the Library of America which includes "The Street" together with Petry's (1908 -- 1997) later novel "The Narrows" and three short essays. Upon its 1946 publication, "The Street" was a critical and financial success, selling well over one million copies. It was the first book by an African American woman to do so. It faded somewhat from the public eye, but the new LOA publication should bring the novel renewed attention. Most of "The Street" is set in a Harlem tenement during WW II. The principal characters are Lutie Johnson. a young, attractive, and ambitious single mother and her eight-year old son Bub. Lutie has left both her husband and her aging father in search of independence and a better life. She had worked for two years for a wealthy white Connecticut family, an experience which reinforced her belief in the value of money and success. Lutie has struggled to better her condition by taking and passing civil service exams for entry-level positions. When she and Bub go on their own, she is forced to take rooms in an abysmal, fetid Harlem tenement. She struggles to save money and to educate Bub and give him a better life. The novel is, in Petry's own evaluation, a work of social criticism. The criticism is directed at the appalling conditions in much of Harlem and at the white racism that allows such conditions to continue. The novel also intertwines a feminist criticism of sexism and probably of male sexuality. Petry had lived in Harlem and her novel is at its best in its vivid descriptions of tenements, streets, clubs, and people. The many characters in the book include the building superintendent, a rakish band leader, and an elderly white man who owns the tenement and a series of clubs. These three men, and other men, have lustful, dishonorable designs on Lutie. Another character, Mrs. Hedges, is a madam who lives and runs her establishment from the tenement, sits out her window and gazes at the street, and seems to know everything that goes on. The book is written in a passionate, angry style. It kept me involved during this second reading. Lutie struggles valiantly to protect herself and her son, to keep the men away, and to stay out of the clutches of Mrs. Hedges. The book offers a grim portrayal of Harlem, differing from some of the other portrayals during the earlier Harlem Renaissance by both African American and white writers. In this second reading, I enjoyed the book much more than I did during the first reading. I appreciated its rawness and grit, qualities that should have impressed me more years ago. I came to like the book while not feeling guilty about some of my negative reaction years ago. The book has strong elements of melodrama with its story of Lutie against the world. The portrayal of the male characters, both in Harlem and elsewhere, with their exclusive focus on sex and on the sexual possession of Lutie also bothered me when I first read the book and continued to do so on this reading. It is a heavily feminist anti-male portrayal which has become all too common in literature of many settings. I came to appreciate the book more, which is one of the virtues of reading and re-reading. I also achieved a degree of peace with my long-forgotten earlier reading of the book. I am grateful to the LOA for including this book in its outstanding series of American writing. Robin Friedman

  28. 4 out of 5

    Misshaq

    I received this book as a gift from my grandmother. She wrote a small note in the insert of the book that says she read this book when she was 16 (she is now 78) because she grew up in Harlem near 116th street where this story takes place. The Street is about a woman name Lutie Johnson-young,smart,strong willed and determined to rise above the poverty and racism that constrains her on a daily basis. After an unsuccessful youthful marriage, she becomes a single woman raising her son in Harlem 195 I received this book as a gift from my grandmother. She wrote a small note in the insert of the book that says she read this book when she was 16 (she is now 78) because she grew up in Harlem near 116th street where this story takes place. The Street is about a woman name Lutie Johnson-young,smart,strong willed and determined to rise above the poverty and racism that constrains her on a daily basis. After an unsuccessful youthful marriage, she becomes a single woman raising her son in Harlem 1950s. Lutie is also extraordinarily beautiful. In her case, her beauty worked against her causing jealousy among the women (white and black alike) and unhealthy and dangerous obsessions among the men of all races. Lutie is unable to make ends meet and live the quality life that she sees her white counterparts living. The book has a very sad ending that I won't give away in case you want to read it. The author, Ann Petry takes the reader right into the world she describes. You get an understanding of what life was like for black people back then, post World War II, how the men dealt with unemployment and what that did to their psyche's, how it impacted their women, who had to go out to work and how that in turned impacted the children and the communities. I found myself rooting for Lutie and wondering how she would fare in modern times. Great read!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Issicratea

    A Goodreads algorithm proposed Ann Petry’s 1946 The Street to me, presumably on the grounds that I had recently read another neglected pre-Civil Rights African-American novel, William M. Kelley’s A Different Drummer. You could hardly have two more different approaches to the issue of race than Kelley’s poised experimentalism, and Petry’s raw, unremitting realism, but I liked both novels, in very different ways, and I think that both will stay with me. I must say I think A Different Drummer is sup A Goodreads algorithm proposed Ann Petry’s 1946 The Street to me, presumably on the grounds that I had recently read another neglected pre-Civil Rights African-American novel, William M. Kelley’s A Different Drummer. You could hardly have two more different approaches to the issue of race than Kelley’s poised experimentalism, and Petry’s raw, unremitting realism, but I liked both novels, in very different ways, and I think that both will stay with me. I must say I think A Different Drummer is superior as a novel, even though both were their respective author’s first published work. Or, at least, Kelley’s style is more to my taste: concise, chiseled, oblique, not afraid to make the reader do a fair amount of work. Ann Petry doesn’t write badly, but she is more of a blunt instrument; there’s a lot of “telling” here, and a certain heavy-handed didacticism. I was finding her hard work at first, but then I found myself pulled into the story, particularly through Petry’s finely-drawn, touching portrayal of the main character’s eight-year-old son. The subject matter is grim. The street of the title is 116th Street in Harlem, between Seventh and Eighth Avenue: a virtual slum, at the time of writing, of overcrowded tenements, filled with quietly desperate, barely-managing working people. The protagonist, Lutie Johnson, is a strikingly beautiful young woman, who has to struggle against unwanted male attention and a constant threat of sexual violence, as well as the daily attrition of poverty and racial prejudice, both vividly described. Lutie is an intelligent observer, with a good grasp of the realities of her situation and the relentless social and racial logic behind it (this is a highly political novel). She wants out, but there is no way out for her—or no acceptable way. Petry piles a motley range of characters around the central figures of Lutie and her son, Bub: the creepy, half-crazed superintendent of her building; his flaky and put-upon but ultimately resilient partner; a wealthy, hardened musician, the only moneyed black character in the novel; and—perhaps my favorite, as the most unusual—the vast, fire-scarred, indestructible, half-sinister, half-benign Mrs Hedges, who surveys the street’s grisly doings from her first-floor window. Ann Petry came from a very different background from that of Lutie Johnson; she was the daughter of a pharmacist from a small Connecticut town. Her novel has historical value as testimony, however; Petry moved to Harlem after her marriage, and volunteered in an after-school program in a school on the street where the novel is set. Although the Harlem of the 1940s has vanished, Petry’s analysis of the soul-grinding effects of racism and poverty is of more than historical interest. It is impossible to read this novel without asking yourself whether eight-year-old black boys in many parts of urban America face much better life outcomes than Petry's Bub. I turned straight to the statistics when I finished the novel. According to a 2014 NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, “nationwide, African-American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are waived to criminal court.” African-Americans make up around 13% of the population of the USA.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris Blocker

    Ann Petry's The Street bears considerable resemblance to Wright's Native Son or Ellison's Invisible Man. All three tell a tale of a young black person and their struggle to achieve more. All three were written in the same era. All three are heartbreaking and haunting. I've loved all three, but each stands out for its own reason. The Street stands apart from the other two because Petry's story is so much more than a story of ethnicity; it's equally a tale about the struggles of women, and more so Ann Petry's The Street bears considerable resemblance to Wright's Native Son or Ellison's Invisible Man. All three tell a tale of a young black person and their struggle to achieve more. All three were written in the same era. All three are heartbreaking and haunting. I've loved all three, but each stands out for its own reason. The Street stands apart from the other two because Petry's story is so much more than a story of ethnicity; it's equally a tale about the struggles of women, and more so it's the sad plight of anyone who lives in poverty. Ellison wrote masterful scenes and Wright created a voice impossible to forget, but Petry succeeded writing a story that was immensely universal. The Street is the story of Lutie Johnson. Lutie worries about money and image, she worries about her young son and dreams about her full potential. Lutie's struggles are ones many of us face, even today. Lutie's very insightful and intelligent, but otherwise she's not much different than your average person struggling to make ends meet. Her tale is tragic not so much because of the complexion of her skin, but because of “the street” and all it entails. Petry had ample opportunity to deride capitalism and make this a political book, but unlike Wright she let the story speak for itself, let the reader decide what is right and wrong with the picture. Petry wrote wonderfully, and her characters were phenomenal. She expertly developed them, handing out unique voices to each, capturing accurate portrayals regardless of age or gender. Though this is the story of Lutie, Petry rotated through many perspectives, delving into the struggles of others while propelling the primary plot further. Unfortunately, compared to her contemporaries, Petry is largely unknown today. Both Ellison and Wright are widely taught in high schools and universities, but Petry is not. Her talents did not outweigh her male counterparts, but they certainly rivaled them. And given the more universal message of The Street, I would think it must have more appeal to instructors of young people. I anticipate a Petry renaissance in the coming years; I'd love to read more of her work.

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