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

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  209 Ratings  ·  16 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

Paperback, 464 pages
Published May 1st 1991 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published June 1900)
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3.5 stars

An intense novel about race relations, familial ties that transcend generations, and the ways in which capitalism and race interact to deaden our souls. This epic romantic saga spans several years and many characters. Amidst all of this, Pauline Hopkins shows how the contending forces that created slavery still exist and harm black people. I appreciated Hopkins's emphasis on the past repeating itself. With Trump's recent victory, we cannot pretend that racism, sexism, greed, etc. have d
Apr 28, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing
Shelves: orals-list
I forgot how good this one is, too! Also, +5 to Pauline Hopkins for naming a character Sappho.
Gwen Jones
Feb 23, 2017 Gwen Jones rated it really liked it
There is something about the book that I enjoyed, I just can't put my finger on it. The reminds me to find more literature fiction and nonfiction about life for blacks after the civil war. My class has a essay due for this book, I don't know what to write about.
Oct 21, 2014 Samuel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 09, 2017 Emmanuel rated it really liked it
This was yet another book read for class. I was not expecting to enjoy this, but i found the story and plot to be absolutely fascinating and jaw dropping. Seriously, the situations that go on in this book and the things that happen to the characters is just mind-blowing. This NEEDS to be adapted into a film or a tv show or a mini-series or something! The characters really stick with you and are enjoyable to read. I'm glad I was forced to read this!
Joanna Hamadeh
Feb 13, 2014 Joanna Hamadeh rated it liked it

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
Glen Engel-Cox
Dec 01, 2014 Glen Engel-Cox rated it it was ok
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
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
May 07, 2010 Meagan rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
Mar 11, 2008 Lola rated it did not like it
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.
Mar 16, 2011 Stacy rated it liked it
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.
Mar 27, 2016 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: for-school
Read (late) for my American lit class. It was a fast read, but it was definitely dense at some points. This is a book that acts as a messenger for important points regarding race, America, and upward mobility.
Jul 14, 2011 Nick rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 10, 2015 Erin rated it liked it
Harriet Beecher Stowe is nodding approvingly in her grave.
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Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins (1859 – August 13, 1930) was a prominent African-American novelist, journalist, playwright, historian, and editor. She is considered a pioneer in her use of the romantic novel to explore social and racial themes. Her work reflects the influence of W. E. B. Du Bois.

(from Wikpedia)
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