(This title is not currently available for download. Find other works by this author at Bookshop.)
Around this time last year, there was a whole lot of sound and fury surrounding the Reclaim Her Name project from Bailey’s and the Women’s Prize, which republished 25 titles by famous women that had originally been released under male pseudonyms crediting their ‘original’ names. The series wasn’t particularly well executed and disappeared after some well-deserved controversies over deadnaming and soft misogyny. I managed to download it before it was unceremoniously scrubbed from the ‘net for being a sloppy mess and sometimes I rummage through the files. There have been a few nice surprises– Ann Petry’s 1939 short story “Marie of the Cabin Club” is one of them. (Petry eventually gained success under her own name with the 1946 bestseller The Street, but her early work was signed Arnold Petri.)
This story is, in many ways, nothing special. It’s a pulp adventure less than 10 pages long, involving a bar waitress who accidentally saves the life of the headliner at a jazz club and slowly falls in love, despite the fact that he seems enamored with a mysterious European customer. It’s a quick, cute read, but it seems to have drawn a lot of reviewer fire for being too short, too pulpy, not deep and nothing like The Street.
About 3/4ths of the way through my own read of this, I realized that this is a depression-era story by a Black woman featuring a regular Black girl hero who catches the eye of the heartthrob(also Black), has an exciting adventure, a close call, and a textbook happy ending. It’s nothing special, sure–in fact, it’s extra regular. But the main characters are Black, most of the action takes place in a Harlem jazz club, and none of it relies overtly on racism, trauma or oppression.
In other words, this short story is an unexpected slice of #readBlackjoy. It just goes to show that our history may include shared trauma, but it also includes shared romance, adventure, and pure entertainment.
It’s not deep or classic, but it is fun. 4 surprise stars to Marie of The Cabin Club.
(Thanks for reading, beautiful people. This book is sadly no longer available for download, but you can find other works by Ann Petry in the Equal Opportunity Bookshop. Just be aware that any clicks and purchases you make from this site could be to affliate links, and a commission may be earned. Peace!)