NONFICTION

Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry

Beacon. Sept. 2018. 256p. notes. index. ISBN 9780807064498. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780807064504. BIOG
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OrangeReviewStarPerry (Ctr. for African American Studies, Princeton Univ.; Prophets of the Hood) writes the first adult biography of playwright Lorraine Hansberry (1930–65), arguing that although her play, A Raisin in the Sun, is well known, the details of her personal life have been largely obscured owing to her sexuality and radicalism. The daughter of a Chicago real estate developer, Hansberry was not a stellar student but excelled in the arts and creative writing. After moving to New York, she worked under the tutelage of W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, researching and writing on black life in the United States and Africa. In 1953, she married Robert Nemiroff, who was Jewish, but continued to have affairs with women. Perry details the development of A Raisin in the Sun and both the popularity and misinterpretation of the play at the time. She also explores Hansberry's lesser-known works, her relationships with James Baldwin and Nina Simone, and her involvement in the civil rights movement. Perry believes that she would have gone on to even more acclaim had she not died of cancer at age 34.
VERDICT A must-read for fans of black and queer history, literary biography, and women's history.
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