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The Street

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  4,057 Ratings  ·  353 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, 435 pages
Published March 15th 1998 by Mariner Books (first published 1946)
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Popular Answered Questions

Victoria There is a suggestion of rape, foul language, grim topics, though it may humble a teen, I think it would be better for ages 16+
Angela Jenkins-bey PG-13 yes, it could go to R if you really want to focus in on the horrors of the burn scene, and the goings on of the call girls.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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 t
...more
Ij
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Cheryl
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cheryl by: Aubrey
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
...more
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 ...more
Zanna
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Zanna by: Adrienne
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. ...more
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 ...more
Nancy Oakes
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-fiction
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
Lulu
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Diane S ☔
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Review soon.
Chris Blocker
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-2013
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
Jillian Haas
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
[Lifted from Wiki] Ann Petry (1908-1997) was the first black woman writer with book sales topping a million copies. She was raised sheltered from most of the disadvantages other black people in the United States had to experience due to the color of their skin.

Now, I'll quote from Wiki directly:

"Petry had a strong family foundation with well-traveled uncles, who had many stories to tell her when coming home; her father, who overcame racial obstacles, opened a pharmacy in the small town; and her
...more
Misshaq
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
...more
Linda Ostrom
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kobo-read
This is the story of Lutie Johnson and her son Bub. They are African Americans living in Harlem, probably sometime in the forties. The characters in this story were extremely well drawn, to the point that you, as the reader, could feel that you were those people and lived where they lived and could smell the street and see the garbage and corruption.

Lutie worked and studied very hard in order to try to pull them up out of poverty, but life was against her. African American men were refused jobs
...more
FreeFormLady
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Check out my thoughts by clicking the link below
https://youtu.be/FuiWeT6pJjw

I have conflicting thoughts on this book. It was beautifully written. The story is just so heartbreaking.

A few days have passed and my mind is still blown! I wish there was more.....

This book was just REAL life. That's the only way I can properly phrase it.
Meg
I think this is the best social commentary novel I've read in recent years. It's just that with the social commentary books I've read, I almost always encounter one (or more of the following) problems that make it impossible for me to rate the book highly: 1) The integrity of the characters is destroyed by the fact the author values delivering the message more highly than maintaining the aliveness of the characters 2) The message and observations are now quite dated, even if they might have been ...more
Keirstan
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
Nicole
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Britt
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
This booked moved patiently and by the end I was floored. GREAT BOOK!
Nathan Wisnoski
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
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
Meghan
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
"And it wasn't just this city. It was any city where they set up a line and say black folks stay on this side and white folks on this side, so that the black folks were crammed on top of each other - jammed and packed and forced into the smallest possible space until they were completely cut off from light and air.
It was any place where the women had to work to support the families because the men couldn't get jobs and the men got bored and pulled out and the kids were left without proper home
...more
Charlotte
May 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookworms
I found the The Street by Ann Petry devastating. Almost too much realism, I could only take so much at any one sitting. Then, I would have to put it down and only pick it up again later, when I felt ready for more.

The descriptive prose and imagery were beautiful; she grips you from the very beginning:

There was a cold November wind blowing through 116th Street. It rattled the tops of garbage cans, sucked window shades out through the top of opened windows and set them flapping back against the wi
...more
Charles
This is a hard book to rate. It's better than 3 stars but not a 4. I would probably give it a 3.5. For the most part it is well-written and the plot moves right along. The protagonist, Lutie Johnson, is believable and likable. The idea behind the plot -- how "the street" in poor and predominantly black neighborhoods makes a victim of almost everyone -- is well-handled. The impacts of racism and segregation on African Americans of the period -- "The Street" was published in 1946 -- are completely ...more
Babydoll
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Pam
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Carol Hislop
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful writing, detailed characterisations and a story that is engrossing. Loved it!
Nora
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This 1946 book could not be fresher and bolder. The style is blunt, lyrical, brutal, and achingly nuanced. Required reading, I'm so glad it's been reprinted.
Christy
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
Nicky Penttila
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sarah
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This Book.

When David Bowie died, most of my friends spent a lot of time listening to his albums in tribute, but I dug up this article that I'd once read about the books that David Bowie articulated as his top 100 most influential books he'd ever read. David Bowie, that brilliant and creative spirit, was to me so amazing because his entire being was a continuous work of creation, a continuous, seamless, self contained world that he made and made and made again, and in doing so made it possible f
...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, 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.” 11 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.” 4 likes
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