Looking for Lorraine
A revealing portrait of one of the most gifted and charismatic, yet least understood, Black artists and intellectuals of the twentieth century.Lorraine Hansberry, who died at thirty-four, was by all accounts a force of nature. Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, her short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties. While her close friends and contemporaries, like James Baldwin and Nina Simone, have been rightly celebrated, her story has been diminished and relegated to one work--until now. In 2018, Hansberry will get the recognition she deserves with the PBS American Masters documentary "Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart" and Imani Perry's multi-dimensional, illuminating biography, Looking for Lorraine.After the success of A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry used her prominence in myriad ways: challenging President Kennedy and his brother to take bolder stances on Civil Rights, supporting African anti-colonial leaders, and confronting the romantic racism of the Beat poets and Village hipsters. Though she married a man, she identified as lesbian and, risking censure and the prospect of being outed, joined one of the nation's first lesbian organizations. Hansberry associated with many activists, writers, and musicians, including Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, among others. Looking for Lorraine is a powerful insight into Hansberry's extraordinary life--a life that was tragically cut far too short.

Looking for Lorraine Details

TitleLooking for Lorraine
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 9th, 2018
PublisherBeacon Press
ISBN-139780807064498
Rating
GenreBiography, Nonfiction, Lgbt, History, Womens

Looking for Lorraine Review

  • Vicky
    January 1, 1970
    Although I haven't quite finished Looking for Lorraine (I'm at the 80% mark), I've decided to set out a few thoughts today to coincide with the publication of the book. I first became aware of the name "Lorraine Hansberry" while watching Raoul Peck's powerful documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which explores racism in the US through the writings and reminiscences of James Baldwin. Referencing a meeting in 1963 with then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to discuss the state of interracial relatio Although I haven't quite finished Looking for Lorraine (I'm at the 80% mark), I've decided to set out a few thoughts today to coincide with the publication of the book. I first became aware of the name "Lorraine Hansberry" while watching Raoul Peck's powerful documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which explores racism in the US through the writings and reminiscences of James Baldwin. Referencing a meeting in 1963 with then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to discuss the state of interracial relations, Baldwin talks about a resplendent presence at the meeting, a woman who stunned RFK with her determination about what needed to be done (not that RFK wanted to hear those things), but who unfortunately died young. That woman was Lorraine Hansberry and, having looked her up, I jumped at the opportunity to receive an advance copy of Looking for Lorraine for review purposes.This biography is beyond good. Imani Perry does a wonderful job dragging Lorraine from the shadows, where her premature death confined her, and out into the array of black writers and activists that helped shape the struggle for racial equality in the 50s and 60s. As Perry says, James Baldwin and Nina Simone (both close friends of Lorraine's) were after the 60s criticised for saying uncomfortable things, however both were reinstated recently as important figures of the history of black struggle. This biography serves the purpose of allowing Lorraine to join them, take the place that she rightfully deserves, and be 'remembered fully' (p. 114), as she would have wanted.The book touched me with its sensitive portrayal of Lorraine, a woman the writer never met (as she was born long after Lorraine's passing), but who she grew up feeling very close to partly due to her own interest in black history but also, importantly, due to her adoptive father's interest in and love for Lorraine Perry. So young Imani had privileged access to Lorraine in a way; her father's interest fuelled her own passion, which led to further research for the purposes of this book. One can also see several parallels between Lorraine and Imani: loyalty to the race; a passion of equality; a sharing of radical politics. Imani never obliterates her self from her account of Lorraine without, however, using the book as an opportunity to promote her own agenda. One gets the sense of the younger woman responding to Lorraine's work and life choices, as if the older woman was another self or role-model. The result is a wonderfully written book which carried me away with its rhythm and tenderness, but which is also thoroughly researched and effectively organised into chapters covering the following: Lorraine's childhood and university years, her radical politics, her marriage to a Jewish intellectual but also her sexual interest in and relationships with women, her plays and literary work, her friendship with James Baldwin and other important figures of the Black movement, and finally her death of cancer at the age of 34.A timely and wonderful book that's worth more than five stars. Read it.Thanks to netgalley and Beacon Press for the advance review copy.
    more
  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    Born into the intellectual and activist middle class, Lorraine Hansberry's soaring intellect and inner strength allowed her to produce the work she's best known for, A Raisin in the Sun. That work arose out of family history in Chicago. She was years ahead of her time, but her background and support from her family and friends has had lasting impact. As noted elsewhere, this is a very well researched account of her life, also containing her lesser known works and details of her life that led to Born into the intellectual and activist middle class, Lorraine Hansberry's soaring intellect and inner strength allowed her to produce the work she's best known for, A Raisin in the Sun. That work arose out of family history in Chicago. She was years ahead of her time, but her background and support from her family and friends has had lasting impact. As noted elsewhere, this is a very well researched account of her life, also containing her lesser known works and details of her life that led to her choices in life. These quotes, poetic and evocative, are proof of the richness of her contribution, and add to the richness of her accomplishments. Imani Perry, herself a Princeton professor as well as author, grew up with Hansbury being held up as an example of what is possible, and has done herself and her subject well with this illuminating portrait. I was interested to note that although she identified as lesbian, a bold declaration for her time, she was married for a few years to Robert Nemiroff, with whom she remained friends until her untimely death. The reason this interested me is that Nemiroff wrote the book for Raisin, the Tony-award winning musical based on her work. Further, the excellence of the work led to another award winning production almost 50 years after Raisin in the Sun's first appearance -- Clybourne Park, with characters referred to and present in the first play. Such is the scope and continuation of Hansberry's vision.
    more
  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    I received this as a digital galley from NetGalley.I am hard pressed to dislike a literary biography but this one was exceptionally good. I liked how Ms. Perry divulged gaps in the historical record and took care to not infer too much. Additionally, the structure of the book made it interesting to read. Instead of going strictly chronologically, Ms. Perry arranged the chapters by topic.Also it made me want to reread A Raisin In The Sun which is always a good thing.
    more
  • Andre
    January 1, 1970
    Through the years I’ve heard about the activism and radicalism of Lorraine Hansberry, but never was there a book-length treatment of said activism. Well, thanks to Imani Perry’s careful, caring, love-filled and yes, a radiant piece of scholarship that void has now been brilliantly filled. Imani Perry refers to this work as, “less a biography than a genre yet to be named—maybe third person memoir—” and sets a course that will illuminate Lorraine’s life while avoiding the easy path of rumor and BS Through the years I’ve heard about the activism and radicalism of Lorraine Hansberry, but never was there a book-length treatment of said activism. Well, thanks to Imani Perry’s careful, caring, love-filled and yes, a radiant piece of scholarship that void has now been brilliantly filled. Imani Perry refers to this work as, “less a biography than a genre yet to be named—maybe third person memoir—” and sets a course that will illuminate Lorraine’s life while avoiding the easy path of rumor and BS. “I could tell these stories as gossip. But I hope they will unfold here as something much more than that.”Perry is much more concerned with delivering a first-rate piece of scholarship and she has certainly succeeded in doing that. She eschews the typical biographical format of dates and events and instead crafts a narrative that “comes from the sketches, snatches, and masterpieces she left behind; the scrawled upon pages, published plays, and memories: her own and others from people who witnessed and marveled at, and even some of those who resented, her genius.” She brings Lorraine closer to us, she doesn’t just speak of Lorraine’s activism but shows us via speeches, articles, and witnesses what made Lorraine so radiant and why her star burned so brightly. Imani Perry has created a fully complete portrait of Ms. Hansberry that show us a race woman fully committed to the liberation of Black people. And Imani Perry is hopeful that her portrayal of Hansberry is just one of many to come, as she recognizes the need for Lorraine to be explored widely and deeply by other willing scholars. So, in that longing, you sense the love that Ms. Perry brings to the page, always cautious not to overstate or assume, or read into utterances and writings something that isn’t really there. She still manages to give us an intimate look at Lorraine Hansberry, fleshing out her life beyond the stardom of her most famous play, ‘ A Raisin In The Sun.’ A well balanced, thoughtful, loving treatment of Ms. Lorraine Hansberry, so thank you Ms. Imani Perry for taking the time to bring us this important book and I share your hope that other books may soon be on the way to build on the brilliance of this work. Here Imani Perry speaks about Nina Simone and Jimmy Baldwin, both friends to Lorraine, “They paid mightily for love, love of the people. James Baldwin died in 1987. Nina Simone, in 2003. Both were widely criticized after the 1960s for their declines. Illness and grief contorted their postmovement lives, but so did truth telling. The admiration couldn’t go on forever. Celebration waned the more Nina and Jimmy knew and said about the world. They made people uncomfortable with their vulnerabilities and rage. Their loneliness deepened. Lorraine haunted. Unexpectedly but appropriately, in the twenty-first century, after death, Jimmy and Nina were reborn as icons on posters and pillows and in books upon books. Lorraine has yet to be.” This changes with the release of this fine book. Thanks to Edelweiss and Random House for an advanced DRC. The book is out Sept. 18, 2018.
    more
  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Finished: 15.10.2018Genre: biographyRating: A+Published: 2018Conclusion:One of the great playwrights of theater history....who we rarely hear about: Lorraine Hansberry.Her play A Raisin in the Sun is nr 10 on the list of The 50 Best Plays of the Past 100 YearsLearn about Lorraine here.... Review
    more
  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*I was super excited to read this book because I love Lorraine Hansberry and particularly enjoy getting a chance to teach A Raisin in the Sun when I teach sophomores. I am not largely familiar with Hansberry’s other stories, and I think that is one of the areas where this book really shines. As I was reading, I found myself really appreciating the descriptions and events around each of the *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*I was super excited to read this book because I love Lorraine Hansberry and particularly enjoy getting a chance to teach A Raisin in the Sun when I teach sophomores. I am not largely familiar with Hansberry’s other stories, and I think that is one of the areas where this book really shines. As I was reading, I found myself really appreciating the descriptions and events around each of the other works that Lorraine Hansberry wrote but that didn’t rise to get any mainstream success. I continually checked to see if my library had copies of these different novels and plays because they sounded incredibly interesting and radically different in many ways from A Raisin in the Sun.Overall, I think that if you only know a little or nothing about Lorraine Hansberry, this book is an incredibly good read. The background especially on her childhood and college years is interesting,and I think that Perry does a nice job of relating relevant stories and explaining how these events probably shaped Hansberry’s views and art later in life. I will admit to primarily only knowing that her father tried to buy a house in a white neighborhood when she was younger and a bit about her radical politics, so it was great to see this development of her politics framed by how she saw herself relating to the class divide. I also am always taken when reading biographies by how bad I am at realizing what people were contemporaries of each other. In this case, I was somewhat surprised that both Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Dubois were her mentors, since I associate them with an older generation. Furthermore, I did not realize she was friends with James Baldwin and Nina Simone (two relationships which are really highlighted in the book and were fascinating).If I have any complaints at all about the book it is the insistence that Lorraine Hansberry is a completely forgotten figure in history/art. I think the overall point that maybe she should be better known or her beliefs on what her work meant should be thought about more is fair, but (and maybe this is just because I’m an English teacher) I feel like she is still quite strongly celebrated as a brilliant writer. I think maybe my largest gripe here is that the author seems to believe that the more mainstream interpretation of Raisin in the Sun from when it was first performed is still the prevailing interpretation which I just do not agree with at all. I think the way it is taught for the most part in current times is much closer to the way Hansberry wanted it to be interpreted (including how she would according to this book) than the more vanilla reasons that allowed it to be the first play by a black woman on Broadway.Despite that small complaint, I really enjoyed this book. I think I would recommend this book to anyone who likes A Raisin in the Sun or anyone who is interested in the Civil Rights Movement. I particularly think this would be an interesting companion piece for students reading the play, at the very least pulling from the chapter about A Raisin in the Sun for it.Also posted on Purple People Readers.
    more
  • Rouchswalwe
    January 1, 1970
    Chapter after chapter, I discovered more and more of Lorraine's radiance. Professor Perry has a way of writing that had me feeling as though I were sitting in the archives with her, pondering documents and acquainting myself with two powerful women. I am grateful for Professor Perry's effort of love and her keen insight in writing this volume.
    more
  • Camryn
    January 1, 1970
    Oh wow. I want to cry. This was such an amazing journey. I can’t believe I see so much of myself in a woman who lived so long ago. I loved reading every single part of this book. She never knew me, but I feel more connected to Lorraine.
  • Britt Aamodt
    January 1, 1970
    Imani Perry has written a beautiful and needed book on Lorraine Hansberry who, as the author of A Raisin in the Sun, wrote one of the greatest works of 20th-century American literature. So it's crazy that tomes haven't been written about Hansberry.Perry tries to fill in some of the gaps and even includes new insight on Hansberry's lesbian affairs left out of early scholarship. In the preface, Perry warns that she has not written a traditional biography. It is a biography however one that is inte Imani Perry has written a beautiful and needed book on Lorraine Hansberry who, as the author of A Raisin in the Sun, wrote one of the greatest works of 20th-century American literature. So it's crazy that tomes haven't been written about Hansberry.Perry tries to fill in some of the gaps and even includes new insight on Hansberry's lesbian affairs left out of early scholarship. In the preface, Perry warns that she has not written a traditional biography. It is a biography however one that is interspersed with the biographer's own musings on her subject.Perry's narrative is chronological, following Hansberry from birth to premature death at thirty-seven. She deals with Hansberry in the context of her era and looks at how her politics and creative inner-scape were shaped by her identity as an African-American queer woman with a burning desire to write at all costs.Hansberry's husband, Robert Nemiroff, believed in her talent. He made it his duty to encourage her literary career. Their relationship is one of the most pivotal of the book and one of the most surprising. You get the sense from their correspondence that Hansberry felt ambivalent about the marriage. Her later lesbian relationships might explain this.But in politics and literature, Hansberry and Nemiroff were of a mind. Even after the divorce, Nemiroff was steadfast in his support. He later became her literary executor, preserving his ex-wife's letters and papers.Hansberry rubbed shoulders with prominent thinkers and creative luminaries. People like James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Nina Simone, Ruby Dee and Paul Robeson make appearances in the book. But Hansberry always remains at the center of her own story, and you get to see how her life experiences fed into her stories and plays, including A Raisin in the Sun, inspired by an unsettling period in her youth.Perry also reminds readers that Hansberry wrote much more than Raisin. She spends several pages outlining plots and characters, which was a little too much for me. But for those who want to become immersed in Hansberry's literary output, this may be another allurement.I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. #NetGalley
    more
  • Lindsey
    January 1, 1970
    This biography/literary criticism of the life and works of Lorraine Hansberry is one of the most important books to come out in recent years. It is timely and relevant to our current political climate. Much more than just a chronological listing of names, dates, whens, and whats, the book explores Hansberry's works through the lens of her ideologies and political activism, which at the time were considered very radical. Imani Perry presents a commentary that is both insightful and stimulating. H This biography/literary criticism of the life and works of Lorraine Hansberry is one of the most important books to come out in recent years. It is timely and relevant to our current political climate. Much more than just a chronological listing of names, dates, whens, and whats, the book explores Hansberry's works through the lens of her ideologies and political activism, which at the time were considered very radical. Imani Perry presents a commentary that is both insightful and stimulating. Hansberry was a woman of action. She didn't want talk, she wanted change, and she wasn't afraid to be aggressive with her demands, even after critics slapped her with the "angry black woman" stereotype. She stood up to RFK, journalists, and TV hosts. When she sat on a panel for a discussion about the need for a civil rights movement, and the white backlash to that movement, she started with "How do you talk about 300 years in four minutes?" How indeed? Hansberry articulated something that we white people sometimes forget. As an ally, our most important job is to listen, not advise. To remember that black people have been in this struggle for hundreds of years. That they're tired of being patient, of being told the "right way" to protest or to demand equality, of being told they shouldn't be angry or bitter. Why trust in the justice of a process that has systemically excluded you? As she said in one of her speeches, "Until twenty million black people are completely interwoven into the fabric of our society, you see, they are under no obligation to behave as if they were [citizens]." Hansberry's ideologies are a call to arms. We have a duty to answer.If you're not angry, you're not paying attention.I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Jill Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    Princeton University professor Imani Perry has written a relatively short biography, "Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry". The book is relatively short because the subject died at the age of 34 of cancer. In that short life, Hansberry became famous for her plays and other writing, as well as her beliefs of gender, political, and racial issues. Born on the South Side of Chicago in 1930 to Carl and Nannie Hansberry, black middle-class radicals who protested ho Princeton University professor Imani Perry has written a relatively short biography, "Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry". The book is relatively short because the subject died at the age of 34 of cancer. In that short life, Hansberry became famous for her plays and other writing, as well as her beliefs of gender, political, and racial issues. Born on the South Side of Chicago in 1930 to Carl and Nannie Hansberry, black middle-class radicals who protested housing policies and other racial problems. Lorraine came to her militancy early in life, strongly influenced by her family and friends. Perry does an excellent, low-key examination of Hansberry' life and legacy,Imani Perry inserts herself into her book, despite never knowing Hansberry, who died before Perry was born. This insertion feels a bit clumsy as Perry is less able in writing her own reasons for what seems to be bit of hero-worship, than she is in writing a straight biography. If you're looking for an excellent bio of an interesting and important woman, I can fully recommend this book. Just beware of the author's intrusion.
    more
  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    Imani Perry provides an intimate biography about the playwright, artist, and civil rights leader Lorraine Hansberry who died tragically at the age of thirty-four. She examines what molded this unapologetically proud woman to become the first African American to feature her play, Raisin in the Sun, on Broadway. The book gives an in-depth look into the spiritual bond “Trinity” created between Lorraine, James “Jimmy” Baldwin, and Nina Simone. Together they formed an intellectual and loving friendsh Imani Perry provides an intimate biography about the playwright, artist, and civil rights leader Lorraine Hansberry who died tragically at the age of thirty-four. She examines what molded this unapologetically proud woman to become the first African American to feature her play, Raisin in the Sun, on Broadway. The book gives an in-depth look into the spiritual bond “Trinity” created between Lorraine, James “Jimmy” Baldwin, and Nina Simone. Together they formed an intellectual and loving friendship that created beautiful music that shaped the civil rights movement and stories that explored complex issues about love, sexuality, and interracial relationships and how it coexisted in an atmosphere of violence and racial discrimination. Throughout the book, Perry describes Lorraine as a brilliant, restless, and radical woman who loved her husband dearly but had a passion for beautiful women and frequently championed the rights for the gay and lesbian community. Perry’s critical literary criticism piece is for readers who admire Lorraine Hansberry and want to know more about her achievements, political affiliations, personal relationships and how her presence and ideas were ahead of her time.
    more
  • Eddie
    January 1, 1970
    Her writing penetrated concentric layers of darkness to allow "...truth to see the light." p. 180.When reading Looking for Lorraine you will be immersed in everything Lorraine Hansberry. From her literary work, large & small, public & private, to her family, mentors, contemporaries, colleagues, friends and foes. All of these are interwined with Lorriane's activism; for example, you wouldn't understand the complexity of her relationships or the true meaning of her art, without understandi Her writing penetrated concentric layers of darkness to allow "...truth to see the light." p. 180.When reading Looking for Lorraine you will be immersed in everything Lorraine Hansberry. From her literary work, large & small, public & private, to her family, mentors, contemporaries, colleagues, friends and foes. All of these are interwined with Lorriane's activism; for example, you wouldn't understand the complexity of her relationships or the true meaning of her art, without understanding what she believed in and what she was fighting for. Kudos to Prof. Imani Perry for her scholarship and bringing us Lorraine as we haven't seen her before.
    more
  • Val
    January 1, 1970
    I read the play "A Raisin in the Sun" when I was in high school, but the name Lorraine Hansberry never resonated with me - until now. This woman was a force of nature, confronting whatever she felt was wrong in the world, well before it was fashionable to do so. She should be a role model for young blacks in America who want to be involved in American society in a productive and meaningful way.
    more
  • Justlesa Hall
    January 1, 1970
    Reading A Raisin in the Sun as a child, I have long wondered about the woman behind the play. This book is an excellent portrayal of the most intimate moments of Hansberry life. Such a fascinating woman who the world had for just a short time.
  • Mary Nee
    January 1, 1970
    A good literary biography !
  • Chanda Prescod-weinstein
    January 1, 1970
    One of the best biographies I have ever read.
  • Larry
    January 1, 1970
    An insightful, loving, and graceful musing on the life and work of this important radical playwright. One of the best books I've read this year.
  • Annie Garvey
    January 1, 1970
    This is a good start. I want to know more.
Write a review