Posted on 10/04/2019 at 02:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Ann Petry’s first book, The Street, became the first novel written by a black woman to sell more than a million copies in 1946.

Yet we know little about Petry, thanks to the efforts she took to censor and destroy her personal writings — we literally don’t even know when she was born, since she gave at least six different birth dates throughout her recorded life.

Her insistence on privacy is both understandable (especially given our lack of it in the internet era) and frustrating for those who wished to, counter to Petry’s wishes, examine the writer as well as her writing.

In an excerpt from Shadow Archives: The Lifecycles of African American Literature, which you can read on Literary Hub, Jean-Christophe Cloutier does his best to dig through what’s left of Petry in spite of her efforts.

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