The Contender is a coming-of-age novel whose protagonist, a black seventeen-year-old high school dropout named Alfred Brooks, lives with his Aunt Pearl and her three daughters in Harlem, a predominantly African American neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City, in the mids. Alfred's father deserted the family when Alfred was ten years old; his mother died when he was thirteen. On both occasions, his best friend, James, stood by him. Now, Alfred and James seem headed in opposite directions. One Friday night in June, James breaks into Epsteins' grocery with members of a street gang led by the novel's antagonist, a bully named Major. Alfred is a clerk at the store and inadvertently reveals that there may be money in the cash register on a Friday night; he forgets to tell James about the new alarm system recently installed.

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The Contender is the debut novel by American author and sports journalist Robert Lipsyte. It was published in The book's plot centers on a black seventeen-year-old man named Alfred Brooks, a high school dropout living with Aunt Pearl and her three daughters in Harlem, New York City.

He begins training at a boxing club as an alternative to drugs and gang membership. The novel follows Alfred as his friend James is arrested after robbing the grocery store where Alfred works, and his confrontations with Major, the leader of the local gang, who is responsible for James' drug addiction. Alfred, through a series of related events, learns that life is about more than fighting and winning; it is about being a contender. Themes explored in this novel include issues of socio-economic stance , racism , and fighting for your goals and what you believe in.

It also focuses on positive character development and peer pressure. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. June Hidden categories: Articles with short description Articles to be expanded from June All articles to be expanded Articles using small message boxes.

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The Contender

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Robert Lipsyte

SparkNotes is here for you with everything you need to ace or teach! Find out more. The Contender is a novel by Robert Lipsyte that was first published in Read a Plot Overview of the entire book or a chapter by chapter Summary and Analysis. Donatelli, James, and Mr. Here's where you'll find analysis about the book as a whole.


He waited on the stoop until twilight, pretending to watch the sun melt into the dirty gray Harlem sky. Up and down the street transistor radios clicked on and hummed into the sour air. Men dragged out card tables, laughing. Cars cruised through the garbage and broken glass, older guys showing off their Friday night girls. Another five minutes, he thought.

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