Despite Ann Petry’s stature as one of the most prominent African American writers from the mid-1940s and the first black woman to hit the million-dollar mark in sales with her iconic protest novel The Street in 1946, Country Place (the second of her three novels), published in 1947, remains relatively neglected if not totally obscure. This complex portrait of a predominantly white New England besieged by a hurricane departs appreciably from her first novel, which was and still remains much more widely known as emblematic of the black naturalism/protest discourse popularized by Petry’s male contemporaries—Richard Wright most famously, as well as by Chester Himes. In flipping the familiar racial protest script of African Americans’ inexorable victimization in hostile white America, Country Place plumbs the interiorities of white malehood: sexual, gendered, even narratological. In this unflinching depiction of white men’s psycho-sexual lives, Country Place limns not simply the dis-ease of whiteness, but white maleness and manifold anxieties therein. Indeed, this relatively invisible novel contributes inestimably not only to the important white-life subgenre of African American literature, but also to the legacy of black fiction writers who broached what was then relatively unbroachable—pioneers such as Pauline Hopkins, James Weldon Johnson, and Nella Larsen, all of whom unwittingly or surreptitiously encrypted homosocial desires within heterocentered storyworlds.


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pp. 93-110
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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