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At Home Inside

A Daughter's Tribute to Ann Petry

Elisabeth Petry

Publication Year: 2008

Ann Petry (1908-1997) was a prominent writer during a period in which few black writers were published with regularity in America. Her novels The Street, Country Place, and The Narrows, along with a collection of short stories and various essays and works of nonfiction, give voice to black experience outside of the traditional strains of poverty and black nationalism.

At Home Inside: A Daughter's Tribute to Ann Petry sifts the myriad contradictions of Ann Petry's life from a daughter's vantage. Ann Petry hoarded antiques but destroyed many of her journals. She wrote, but, failing to publish for years, she used her imagination to design and sew clothes, to bake, and to garden. When fame finally came, Ann Petry did not enjoy the travel it brought. Though she suffered phobias and anxieties all her life, she did not avoid the obligations of literary success until late in her career.

Ann Petry applied her formidable skills to stories she told about herself and her family, and the corrections Elisabeth Petry makes to her mother's inventions will prove invaluable. Talking about her life publicly, Ann Petry acknowledged six different birth dates. She hid her first marriage, and even represented her father, Peter C. Lane, Jr., as a potential killer. Mining Petry's journals Elisabeth Petry creates part biography, part love letter, and part sounding of her mother's genius and luminescent personality.

Elisabeth Petry is a freelance writer with a juris doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Middletown, Connecticut, and is the editor of Can Anything Beat White? A Black Family's Letters (University Press of Mississippi).

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiii

When I set out to write reminiscences of my mother I had no idea they would take me on such a wonderful journey, deep into my mother's life and even deeper into my own. I anticipated that the trip would be painful, and some of it was. But it was not the horror show I expected. Early in the writing I believed...

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Prelude

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pp. 1-18

My mother did not want this book to exist. While she lived she discouraged all biographers and shunned most interviews. She wanted readers to direct their attention to her writing, not to her life. She wrote in her journal during the publicity campaign for the 1992 edition of The Street: "I feel as though...

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I. Keeping Secrets

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pp. 19-71

Many aspects of my mother's early years involved mysteries. Some, such as her birth date and her feelings about her appearance, were easy to resolve. There were no satisfactory answers to others, for example, her view of her status in the town where she was born or the reasons she kept her marriage secret from her...

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II. Scribbling Woman

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pp. 72-131

My mother spent a substantial amount of her writing life trying to answer questions on the same three themes: Why did you decide to become a writer? What were the sources for your novels and short stories? And later, why did you stop writing? She never found a satisfactory answer to the first question. She left...

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III. Nurturing Mother

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pp. 132-187

Since I was old enough to talk in complete sentences, people have always asked, "What's it like to have a famous mother?" I thought she was just like other mothers when I was young. She cooked and sewed and dusted just like the mothers of my friends. She drove me to Sunday school and home from Brownies just like...

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Coda

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pp. 188-191

So what have I learned about this person who was my mother? She was a young girl, reminded over and over that she should have been a boy, that her sister was smarter, that she was too fat to wear attractive clothing. She was a young woman who struggled to conform at Hampton Institute and then felt inferior to the...


E-ISBN-13: 9781604735895
E-ISBN-10: 1604731001
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604731002

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2008