This article places Ann Petry’s work in conversation with the existential phenomenology of contemporaneous writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Frantz Fanon. Examining a key sequence in her final novel, The Narrows (1953), the author shows how Petry’s work calls for and models a Black existentialist reading practice that is in productive tension with the prescriptive protocols of social protest literature—then and now—and invites us to read for choices within situations rather than determining environments or ontological foreclosures.

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