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The Street

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  7,916 ratings  ·  939 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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Popular Answered Questions
Karen What do you mean by "clean"?

I think there is a little swearing. There are references to sex. There is malice, cruelty, jealousy, entitlement, determin…more
What do you mean by "clean"?

I think there is a little swearing. There are references to sex. There is malice, cruelty, jealousy, entitlement, determination, trust, betrayal, greed, hard work, all of it completely realistic, believeable, and infuriating. If my 13-year-old son would read it, I wouldn't stop him. He is pretty thick-skinned and does not take fiction to heart. My daughter is now 7; I don't know what she'll be like at 13 but she is a little more tender-hearted and I might suggest that she wait until she's 15 before reading something so heartbreaking.(less)
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

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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  7,916 ratings  ·  939 reviews


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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
...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
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
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
...more
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
...more
Faith
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: overdrive, audio
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 ...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
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
...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
Laysee
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kathleen
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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.
Matthew
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
...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
Lisa
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
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. ...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.
...more
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 ...more
Anna 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
...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
Chrissie
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
...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
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
...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!
Ken
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished-in-2020
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
...more
Ila
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, favorites
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
...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
Issicratea
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, 1900-1950
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
...more
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
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
Lisa Reads & Reviews
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
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226 followers
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

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56 likes · 19 comments
“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.” 21 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.” 8 likes
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