Pauline Hopkins' short story, Talma Gordon was published in 1900 and is credited as the first published mystery by a black author.
Just this fact alone made this a story I wanted to read. I have always been a fan of mysteries and my recent discovery of the many mysteries by black authors has opened a new world for me. It is fascinating to investigate how mystery and crime fiction by black authors has changed over the years. I also think it is important that we remember and honor the black authors who came before us and made a way for our current writers.
Talma Gordon is a different type of mystery. The story is not centered around a detective or person as they seek to find the murderer. This story is told in the fashion of a retelling of events that surround the death of Capt. Jonathan Gordon, his wife, and their little son. The story is told by the respected Doctor Thornton.
The story is set in a time when a woman's destiny was determined by the man she married. It was a time when a woman had to depend on a man to control all her financial matters even if the money was originally hers. Plus, you have the lack of civil rights for all people of color and especially black people. This comes to play a key role in this fast-moving short story.
As the story develops, we see how the cloud of suspicion that surrounds Talma due to her parent's death has an oppressive effect on her life and so many others. The ending will catch you off guard.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this short story. The picture painted of the time period was great and it was done without slowing down the pace of the story with excessive descriptions of the setting. The language is beautiful and is fitting with the time period. I would encourage everyone to read this short story for its historical importance. Also, it is an enjoyable quick read. Pauline Hopkins was a very prolific writer of the time and has many other stories beside Talma Gordon. Check out her work.
You may also want to check out the great resources on The Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins Society.