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5.0 out of 5 starsShould be taught in every college course about "Great American Novels." A Masterpiece!
Reviewed in the United States on July 15, 2016
This book is nothing short of a CLASSIC. This novel is a timeless work that is powerfully and beautifully written. It was one of the first books written by an African-American to sell a million copies. I first read this book as a course requirement in a graduate English class about American novels. I remember feeling furious about the fact that I had not known about the novel before -- and I am a voracious reader. Why hadn't this brilliant novel been assigned at the "mainstream" university I attended as an undergraduate? It appears that, some years back, this groundbreaking novel was “rediscovered;” and, currently, it is being used at the high school, college and graduate school level. Indeed, it is the kind of book that, like Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, one can plumb more and more from the book as one grows older and and becomes more advanced intellectually. The Street, set in the 1940s, is about a beautiful African American female, separated from her husband, who attempts to advance, as a single parent with a small son, against the forces of racism, discrimination, sexism, poverty and a gritty, crowded, segregated Harlem ghetto environment that is filled with challenges to living a decent quality of life, but is, nevertheless, reassuring, in some aspects, to its African American inhabitants. The 18 chapter book is a tour de force, and easily could have been written today because it brings forth a number of societal issues that are still highly problematic. Those problems include the ways in which Black male/female relationships are impacted by racism and poverty, and the shameful ways in which African American children in urban areas are often negatively, and unjustly, perceived and improperly educated.
5.0 out of 5 starsA classic, wonderful book - and so sad :(
Reviewed in the United States on July 17, 2019
This book was amazing, and I'm so glad I read it. Takes place in Harlem during WWII, and focuses on a young single mother who has to deal with poverty, lack of opportunity, racism, worries about raising her son, and predatory men. It's poetic, stream-of-consciousness, and very sad. The issues are so much the same as what people face and discuss today - it makes it seem like nothing much has changed, even though the Civil Rights Movement made great strides after this book was written.
5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent timeless (unfortunately) read
Reviewed in the United States on January 27, 2019
Generally speaking I read about a book a week and this was definitely one of the best I read in 2018. The main character is good, flawed, naive and caught between a brutal reality and a dream of escape. The characters are vivid and the story of racism, limited options, violence against women and police brutality are all still true today.
I’m more than halfway through the book but wanted to go ahead and write a brief review. I am addicted to reading this novel! I can hardly put it down, and every time I do, I find myself picking it back up to read just one more chapter. And then one turns into two, and so on. The author does such a great job of making you connect with the characters of the book. I love how the book doesn’t just focus on one character, but you get to know each of them intimately. You get to see from each of their viewpoints, and how their lives are so intertwined with each other’s without them even being aware of how intertwined they really are. I’m excited to see how the novel ends, but at the same time, I don’t want it to end. In short, this novel has completely captured me. Update: Hey ya’ll, I’m back. I finished the book and let me just say how heartbreaking the ending was :( I couldn’t help but to feel the story came to an abrupt ending and I still had so many questions and things I wondered about. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I think the author rushed the book and then ended it with little to no explanation just for the sake of ending the book. I just didn’t want it to end and I also wasn’t expecting that climactic ending. I want more! Or a sequel!
5.0 out of 5 starsA Brilliant Voice about a Black Woman in Harlem
Reviewed in the United States on December 10, 2018
Discovery of a brilliant writer is always exciting. "The Street" reminds me of the film "If Beale Street Could Talk." It is a story of love, sadness, a kind of terror, living just above the fringe of poverty and revealing the difficult pattern of life that features the story of a single black mother's loss of soul and human spirit in a world of indifference and racial bias. The story from the late '40s transcends the time, unfortunately. It is still relevant today and Ann Petry is an astute observer and translator of social injustice. "The Street" is steeped in melancholy, anger, tears and New York's richness and bitterness.
4.0 out of 5 starsGripping and Sadly Feels Very True
Reviewed in the United States on February 26, 2019
This book is gripping in a way that almost makes it hard to finish. One wants a Hollywood ending (or at least a softer one) but the truth is the truth. I think this should be required reading for all who live in comfortable cocoons, shielded from the grim realities of racism and poverty. Amazing writer who vividly describes the life of one very determined, extraordinary young woman.
5.0 out of 5 starsAn unflinching and heartbreaking study on racial oppression
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 20, 2020
Wow, what a powerful book, written contemporarily, set in Harlem in the late 1940s. A young woman is a victim of her time, misogyny, racism and just plain bad luck, and her desperate attempts to claw out of the life that she has been thrust into, and to save her son from the same fate. Your heart breaks for her and her son, and also for those around her who fight their own battles.
It's not an easy read, as much of the text develops around the internal monologues of the various characters, each of whom have their own horror stories to tell, and who are all trapped in the system forced upon them, just trying to survive. But this device works well, because as the characters try to rationalise what happens to them, it examines the issues they face from all directions, as they seek they find answers that they can live with, or at least a way out that causes least damage.
I may not have sold this well - it's not as dry as I've made it sound, the sense of place and community is strong and you yearn for Lutie to finally break free, she and her son are such likeable characters. Even Mrs Hedges has her good qualities. I thoroughly recommend this, it's sad that a book centring on endemic racism written in 1948 still has much to teach us, and that alone shows how much further we still have to go.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 14, 2019
I came to this book via a review by Tayari Jones [author of An American Marriage] who lamented the lack of critical aclaim Ann Petry has received. I would compare this book to the Grapes of Wrath - it is about a time and a place and one family's experience but it has a power beyond that; I think she does deserve to sit alongside Steinbeck and should probably be on the school syllabus.
Illuminating and gripping novel set in New York during 2nd World War. The poverty of the main character, a young black mother, who struggles to earn enough to support her and her son, in the face of racism and sexism, is painful but also admirable. Very much a page turner, I was gripped by the need to know how she would overcome.
What an amazing book. As a white, privileged, middle class woman I was brought into a world of mean survival and discrimination that I have been lucky enough to never experience. Lutie the main protagonist is so hard working, so motivated but the street & all its cast out to exploit her, show the huge enormity of how difficult it must have been to be a black single mother in Harlem, & probably still is.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 14, 2016
This book was incredible, I couldn't put it down, it normally takes me a long time to read a book, but I read this in three days. I was right there alongside Lutie the main character willing her on. The ending shocked me a little bit, but I have to give credit to Ann Petry for writing such an incredible book, her storytelling is on another level. I will definitely be reading more from her.