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Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South
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Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South

3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  153 ratings  ·  11 reviews

In 1900, a mere 35 years after the Civil War had ended the practice of one human being owning another, Pauline Hopkins, black and female, published Contending Forces, whose rediscovery here shocks us into recognition that our national literature does indeed con­tain examples of black awareness and pride.

Like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Pauline Hopkins writes of the injustices s

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Paperback, 464 pages
Published May 9th 1991 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published June 1900)
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Glen Engel-Cox
Written in 1899, at the end of the heyday of the sentimental romance genre, this was--I feel--a subversive application of the style. Likely written for a white audience, the African-American authoress was determined to counter some of the more pernicious rumors about blacks, especially black women. To use today's terms, Hopkins was floating her own memes, including the idea that the mulatto, rather than being a tragic figure that could not survive in either the black or white world, was actually ...more
Samuel
Pauline Hopkins' CONTENDING FORCES: A ROMANCE ILLUSTRATIVE OF NEGRO LIFE NORTH AND SOUTH is a grand narrative that delivers on its title. Not only are there contending forces racially, sexually, socially, and geographically, but there is also a strong romantic style that contrasts sharply with the realism employed to demonstrate the brutality of slavery as well as the post-Civil War lynchings and double-standard for rape. Hopkins' major characters are almost all of mixed racial backgrounds: the ...more
Joanna Hamadeh

This book was hard for me to digest at first. However, after I got over the traumatic events of the first few chapters, I slowly gained an appreciation of the melodramatic style of Pauline Hopkins and 19th century literature. She uses fiction and metaphor as a bold social and political commentary. The book has to be taken in context of the time it was written in. Knowledge of the key important black political figures that were Hopkins contemporaries is important, as they are represented in Hopki
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Heather
I forgot how good this one is, too! Also, +5 to Pauline Hopkins for naming a character Sappho.
rr
Nov 16, 2008 rr added it
Hopkins' novel is constructed like a Wilkie Collins story set in the United States and focused on a diverse cast of African-American characters connected by an unknown history. Hopkins weaves in a fair amount of overt social commentary, and in the first half of the novel especially that makes the pace a bit irregular. (But given the high stakes of the things she's commentating upon, it feels peevish of me to complain about it.) I was particularly struck by Hopkins' use of epigraphs for each chap ...more
Meagan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christy
Somewhat interesting as a part of African American political and literary history, but if it weren't on my PhD reading list I would never have finished it. It's not bad, but its techniques come from a genre I have not come to really appreciate--the sentimental novel--and its attempts at being a political novel (explicitly claimed in Hopkins' preface to the book) are seriously undercut by Hopkins' adherence to the genre conventions of the sentimental novel.
Stacy
Brilliant sarcasm hidden underneath public-pleasing style. A little graphic at one or two points, describing brutality and lynching. Overall, an insightful look, with a rather silly happy ending. Just what most Americans want to read.
Lola
This was such a hellish read for me, it doesn't even deserve one star. I just hated it, especially since i had to read it for class and had to focus on it and not just skim. It was so dry and pointless.
Nick
I read this book for a lit class in college. I really liked it at the time. It has a unique style that is lyrical at times.
mika
again... context!
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