Radical Vision: A Biography of Lorraine Hansberry

Yale Univ. Apr. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780300245707. $30. LIT
Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright best known for her masterpiece A Raisin in the Sun, comes alive in this comprehensive biography. Colbert (African American studies and performing arts, Georgetown Univ.) pulls from Hansberry’s distinctly separate public and private lives to produce a fully formed portrait of this brilliant, complex woman. Born in 1930, Hansberry understood the work it took to achieve racial justice from an early age, when her family moved into a predominantly white Chicago neighborhood. Her move to New York City in 1950 marked the beginning of her writing career as well as her deeper involvement in civil rights. Colbert illustrates how Hansberry’s firsthand experience of suffering as a Black woman influenced her writing. The influences of existentialism and feminism, as well as her role as a lesbian and wife, defined her radical vision for racial justice in the U.S. Hansberry’s marriage to Robert Nemiroff and friendships with James Baldwin and Nina Simone are just some of the many illuminating aspects of this vivid biography.
VERDICT A scholarly yet accessible account of the life of a singular American artist and activist. Recommended for enthusiasts of American literature, and anyone who is interested in learning more about this transformational woman, whose vision for the country is as relevant today as ever.
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