Felice D. Blake’s Black Love, Black Hate: Intimate Antagonisms in African American Literature highlights the pervasive representations of intraracial deceptions, cruelties, and contempt in Black literature. Literary criticism has tended to focus on Black solidarity and the ways that a racially linked fate has compelled Black people to counter notions of Black inferiority with unified notions of community driven by political commitments to creative rehumanization and collective affirmation. Blake shows how fictional depictions of intraracial conflict perform necessary work within the Black community, raising questions about why racial unity is so often established from the top down and how loyalty to Blackness can be manipulated to reinforce deleterious forms of subordination to oppressive gender, sexual, and class norms.
Most importantly, the book shows how literature constitutes an alternative public sphere for Black people. In a society largely controlled by white supremacist actors and institutions, Black authors have conjured fiction into a space where hard questions can be asked and answered and where the work of combatting collective, racist suppression can occur without replicating oppressive hierarchies. Intimate Antagonisms uncovers a key theme in Black fiction and argues that literature itself is a vital institutional site within Black life. Through the examination of intimate conflicts in a wide array of twentieth- and twenty-first-century novels, Blake demonstrates the centrality of intraracial relations to the complexity and vision of Black social movements and liberation struggles and the power and promise of Black narrative in reshaping struggle.