In one volume, two landmark novels about the terrible power of race in America from one of the foremost African American writers of the past century.
Ann Petry is increasingly recognized as one of the essential American novelists of the twentieth century. Now, she joins the Library of America series with this deluxe hardcover volume gathering her two greatest works. Published in 1946 to widespread critical and popular acclaim–it was the first novel by an African-American woman to sell over a million copies–The Street follows Lutie Johnson, a young, newly single mother, as she struggles to make a better life for her son, Bub. An intimate account of the aspirations and challenges of black, female, working-class life, much of it set on a single block in Harlem, the novel exposes structural inequalities in American society while telling a complex human story, as overpriced housing, lack of opportunity, sexual harassment, and racism conspire to limit Lutie’s potential and to break her buoyant spirit. Less widely read than her blockbuster debut and still underappreciated, The Narrows (1953) is Petry’s most ambitious and accomplished novel–a multi-layered, stylistically innovative exploration of themes of race, class, sexuality, gender, and power in postwar America. Centered around an adulterous interracial affair in a small Connecticut town between the young black scholar-athlete Link Williams and white, privileged munitions heiress Camilo Sheffield, it is also a fond, incisive community portrait, full of unforgettable minor characters, unexpected humor, and a rich sense of history. Also included in the volume are three of Petry’s previously uncollected essays related to the novels and a newly researched chronology of the author’s life, prepared with the assistance of her daughter Elisabeth Petry.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.