The Street
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The Street

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  2,570 ratings  ·  232 reviews
THE STREET tells the poignant, often heartbreaking story of Lutie Johnson, a young black woman, and her spirited struggle to raise her son amid the violence, poverty, and racial dissonance of Harlem in the late 1940s. Originally published in 1946 and hailed by critics as a masterwork, The Street was Ann Petry's first novel, a beloved bestseller with more than a million cop...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 15th 1998 by Mariner Books (first published 1946)
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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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
It will be a long time before I forget the experience of reading Ann Petry’s The Street. A vivid analysis of race and class injustice in World War II-era New York City framed by the personal account of single mother Lutie Johnson, The Street is as heartbreaking today as it was in 1946, the year of its publication. Petry’s straightforward, omniscient style of writing is a perfect complement to the story, communicating its tragic message with unflinching clarity.

At the forefront of Petry’s novel...more
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...more
Nathan Wisnoski
I hesitate to give this 5 stars because of all the 5-star ratings I've been doling out recently, but I can't help myself—it's stuck with me for the past few days since I've finished the book and I'm still thinking about the ending...

Petry is obviously writing with a purpose here—it's a novel about a poor, black, single mother in Harlem and was published in 1946—but she also succeeds in crafting a heart-wrenching story that does not suffer at the hands of her message.

Lutie Johnson may be the prot...more
Aug 12, 2007 Nicole rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: absolutely everyone
The Street, by Ann Petry, is one of my all-time favorite books. Sometimes I find I have a physical relationship to the object of a book, and this is a paramount example.

In college, I volunteered at a books for prisoners program, where we would package books per prisoner's requests. Aside from the delightful (and perhaps naive, or at least simplistic) joy of hoping that books could address the systemic oppression and human toll that is prison (and the crimes that put people there), I got to handl...more
I have always wanted to read this book, but was somehow never presented with the opportunity to read it until this weekend. I am awfully angry that I took so long to read it, for it was an amazing novel. Well written, gripping, and dismal, 'The Street' presents the reader with a disturbing story of a woman struggling in Harlem to raise her son alone, on a street populated with poor Blacks. Ann Petry proved herself as such a talented writer, that she became the first African American woman to sel...more
This book is to the single, poor, black mother literary voice what the Their Eyes Were Watching God is to the priming, budding, adventurous voice of the maturing black woman loving and enduring the stories of the porch. In much the way that Hurston captures and celebrates Southern life and love, Petry captures East Coast struggle and heartbreak. I'm not quite sure why this novel doesn't live in such popularity as similar works. In either case, I am happy to have discovered this gem of a book. As...more
The ending of this novel is perhaps the most heartbreaking thing you'll ever read. However, Petry is masterful in her ability to understand the motivations of even the most odious characters. She also does a brilliant job of trapping the reader in the same way she traps Lutie Johnson in her life, through no fault of her own. I've taught this novel several times, and although students are usually unhappy with the ending, they eventually have to admit that there's no other ending that makes any se...more
Nicky Penttila
Raw, riveting, and sadly still reflective of our own times, this novel describes life on a street in Harlem in 1945. I found the pacing a bit slow and some text a bit repetitious, but maybe that was needed to drive home the point that poverty and lack of opportunity are a crucible melting the hardiest values and weakening the strongest souls. The end is both expected and a surprise—well done.

What I liked best: Pretty much everything, but especially all the points of view. We’re mainly with Lutie...more
"The Street" is a powerful and important book that every American should read to get a glimpse inside the life of cyclical poverty. This is the story of Lutie Johnson after her "divorce" from her husband, as she tries her best to make a decent life for herself and her eight year old son, Bub, on the cruel streets of New York City during WWII, and did I mention that it's also winter time throughout this novel? Can she manage to do it and hold onto her sense of dignity and self-respect? In many wa...more
Hattie Norman
Professionals say our environment is a major part of what we become later in life. Lutie Johnson didn't need a psychologist or social worker to tell her these words. Deep down in her heart she knew 116th street would never make her. It could only break her. Everyday her constant thought is how to get away from the street
before it's destructive powers destroyed her little boy, Bub. Sadly, her environment is a major battle she can never win. I learned that no matter how hard I try to remove mysel...more
I was introduced to Ann Petry's work several years ago through her amazing short story, "Like a Winding Sheet," a haunting story about a loving couple whose relationship becomes mangled by the insidiousness of the prejudice swirling around them. It has remained a favorite of mine to read (and to teach). Having finished The Street, I can now say that Petry can write about the devastations of racism like no one else. She one-ups Richard Wright by tackling a similar political agenda but without sac...more
The Street is a novel in the tradition of Richard Wright's Native Son. It is concerned with the lives of poor urban African Americans during the 1940s and it provides a gritty, realistic view of their lives. Petry's novel is even more convincing an argument than Wright's, however. Where Wright's work gains power through its almost claustrophobic focus on Bigger, Petry is able to provide the reader with insights into multiple characters on the street, even though her focus is primarily Lutie John...more
Rachel Kowal
I had very mixed feelings about this one. I finished it surprisingly quickly for its size - the narrative (single mom raising her kid in Harlem in the 1940s) is easy to get into. Kind of reminded me of an African American version of Henry Roth's Call It Sleep (though I think I preferred Roth). Petry's voice is at times lyrical. But man, oh man is it heavy handed. Ultimately the antagonist ends up being poverty, but no one really gets off too easily - especially men. The forcefulness of the hatre...more
When I realized I was spending more time thinking about whether I wanted to continue reading this book than I was thinking about the book, I decided to quit. The book is well written with an interesting story, but it moved too slowly for me.
sweet pea
why The Street isn't in the pantheon of classics confounds me. while it's true some of the descriptions drag on, the perspective of the novel is brilliant and illuminating. the story is mostly Lutie Johnson's to tell. but other inhabitants of the city street in Harlem in the 1940s have their turn to tell their story. the story is inspirational in parts as Lutie struggles to get out of her conditions. but mostly it is disheartening as she goes against the endemic racism that prohibits her from su...more
Petra Robertson
Once I had gotten past the misspelled and wrong words, I had to then get around the jerkiness of the transitions from scene to scene and from character to character. "The Street" by Ann Petry, tells the story of Lutie Johnson, an African American female trying to raise her young son, Bub on her own in 1940's Harlem. Even though a lot of the plot was predictable, there is a lot of character development that lets the reader see what life was like during this era for this particular demographic.
Jul 21, 2014 laysia!!!! is currently reading it
so far reading the street by ann petry is actually a pretty interesting a well - detailed book . i feel like when i read it i can actually see and witness everything going on . i love how at the beginning of the book the wind was portrayed as a person or a bully of some sort . the wind tried to still people's pride and joy AND thier scarves and hats
Dara Lebrun
One of the best American novels to date. Petry’s first, and a masterpiece. I read it first in 1986, and re-read it about every 7 years. Though I know what’s coming, I can’t put it down no matter how often I re-read it. And the characters remain with me long after I close the book.

Has a feature film ever been based on it, other than this one I came upon on indiegogo?

If not, it’s high time. Though the action is set in Harlem after World War II and before C...more
This is Ann Petry's moving and thought provoking debut novel that was written in 1946. It's the story about a young black woman, Lutie, and her determined efforts to raise her son in the poverty, violence and racial climate of Harlem in the late 1940's.
I HIGHLY recommend this book!! This is a stary that sticks with you long after you've finished reading the book. I look forward to reading the other 4 books that she wrote.
I highly recommend this book. I marveled continually that it was written in 1946 yet the voice and insight felt so incredibly contemporary. Readable and very engaging, although not exactly uplifting partially because so many things have most likely NOT changed in more than 50 years.
Caroline Alicia
Loved this book. even though I was resentful for days after reading it. It's sad to say not much has changed. Other than the fact White people can't outright call you a nigger without getting flash from the rest of society, who knows what they say among each other though.

i was reading amazon reviews and it's amazing how many people just don't get it. I guess it's something you can't get unless you were born in brown skin in this country. To be past over denied.. and to have people tell you "get...more
Melanie Florence
"The Street" is a powerful story that I knew, as I was reading it, would not end well. It is absorbing and the characters are well drawn. The ending was shocking and sudden but almost inevitable.
Sep 13, 2014 Rita marked it as to-read
WRB review of Clark's biography of Petry: Vol 21, no 2, mar/apr 2014

Clark thinks her novel THE NARROWS [1953] is her best one: a young ivy league educated black man is targeted after pursuing an affair with a white heiress.

Her short story LIKE A WINDING SHEET is much anthologized. -- black worker whose response to the corrosive racism he experiences on the job is to commit domestic violence.

THE WITNESS [Redbook 1971 story] depicts a sexually repressed black elitist ensnared in a sex crime spree...more
i am totally captivated by Petry's use of the environment as character.
This book is about the streets of Harlem, and the difficulties in getting off the street for blacks. Particularly, Lutie Johnson gets an apartment on 116th St. and hates it from the get-go. She has a little boy to raise and is afraid he'll get sucked in by the gangs, drugs etc. that keep the black people from getting out of the neighborhood. It's interesting how she feels about white people. The cast of characters includes another tenant, Mrs. Hedges, the superintendent, and his live-in girlfrie...more
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Ann Petry (October 12, 1908 – April 28, 1997) was an American author who became the first black woman writer with book sales topping a million copies for her novel The Street.

The wish to become a professional writer was raised in Ann for the first time in high school when her English teacher read her essay to the class commenting on it with the words: “I honestly believe that you could be a writer...more
More about Ann Petry...
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“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, or 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.” 4 likes
“The snow fell softly on the street. It muffled sound. It sent people scurrying homeward, so that the street was soon deserted, empty, quiet. And it could have been any street in the city, for the snow laid a delicate film over the sidewalk, over the brick of the tired, old buildings; gently obscuring the grime and the garbage and the ugliness.” 2 likes
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