Looking for Lorraine

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 unflinch...

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Title:Looking for Lorraine
Author:Imani Perry
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Edition Language:English

Looking for Lorraine Reviews

  • Jennifer

    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.

  • Rouchswalwe

    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.

  • Andre

    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.

  • Kasa Cotugno

    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.

  • Vicky

    Although I haven't quite finished

    (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

    , 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

    (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

    , 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

    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.

  • Nancy

    15.10.2018

    biography

    A+

    One of the great playwrights of theater history

    ....who we rarely hear about: Lorraine Hansberry.

    Her play

    is nr 10 on the list of

    The 50 Best Plays of the Past 100 Years

    Learn about Lorraine here....

  • Camryn

    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.

  • Andrew

    *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

    .

  • Britt Aamodt

    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

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