The fiction of African-American author Ann Petry confronts prejudices of race, sex, and class and marks the ways the American dream of success and plenitude haunts, and ultimately mocks, those people who fail to achieve it. Petry calls her characters "the walking wounded." Betrayal, deep-seated anger, and murderous violence recur throughout her three novels, The Street (1946), Country Place (1947), and The Narrows (1953). Written midcentury, Petry's novels and stories are still more timely than one might like them to be, for they articulate the same pain and outrage documented by today's chroniclers of sexism and racism. In this first full-length critical study of Ann Petry's life and writings, Hilary Holladay examines the author's three novels as well as Miss Muriel and Other Stories (1971), Petry's collection of short fiction. Holladay's treatments of Petry's second novel, Country Place, and the collection of short stories - the first ever published by an African-American woman - fill gaps in existing scholarship by offering detailed readings of these previously underrepresented works. Sophisticated literary-critical analysis of Petry's works and careful consideration of the cultural and historical context in which the author wrote demonstrate the modernist aesthetic Petry's narratives share with the fiction of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf and buttress Holladay's arguments for the seminal position of Petry's oeuvre within African-American literature, and particularly within the tradition of African-American women's writing. Holladay reads Petry's stories and novels as dynamic portrayals of neighborhoods - communities within larger communities - where people's destructive attitudes toward each other shape the neighborhood's overall identity and influence the lives of all its residents, old or young, male or female, prosperous or poor, white or nonwhite. Petry's focus on the importance of relationships and neighborhoods anticipates and inspires the writings of younger African-American women such as Toni Morrison and Gloria Naylor.