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To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: An Informal Autobiography

4.35  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,708 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews

In her first play, the now-classic A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry introduced the lives of ordinary African Americans into our national theatrical repertory. Now, Hansberry tells her own life story in an autobiography that rings with the voice of its creator.

Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 1st 1970 by Signet (first published 1969)
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May 19, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first saw the play on PBS in the 1970s when I was a graduate student at Atlanta University. I was blown away with it. This still is one of my favorite plays. Unfortunately, Lorraine's Hansberry's talented career was cut short by cancer. I am sure that Nina Simone had Hansberry and herself in mind when she sang: "To Be Young, Gifted and Black." Hansberry lives on through her works and her life serves as an inspiration to us all.
Apr 27, 2016 FreeFormLady rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Check out my quick review by clicking the link below
Claire S
Had heard of this, and formed and impression of this, based on other things I read in Women's Studies in the 80's. But for the first time picked up a copy at my daughter's school library, waiting for a meeting to start. I really like the tone of it.. Another Chicagoan! Looking forward to reading it all.

Her description of the way the ghetto-izing schools of Chicago intentionally robbed their students of an education, and the effect on her, is shocking. Also her description of her Dad's efforts to
Craig Cunningham
Lorraine Hansberry was a brilliant playwright, author, and critic. It is very sad that she died so young. However, This brilliant account of her life, told in her own words, is a treasure. Many people do not even realize that her father's famous U.S. Supreme Court caseabolished the practice of restrictive covenants and the case still in which her retains the Hansberry name. Restrictive Covenants allowed for racial segregation in the purchase of real property, specifically residential property, a ...more
Nov 23, 2007 jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama, memoir-bio
sheeeet, i mean, if nina simone used the title for a song, you know it's gotta have weight. one of the most captivating, yet eloquent, voices in modern letters. it's tragic, not only to die of pancreatic cancer, but, too, that all the finest writer's works always end up becoming "as relevant today."
Jan 12, 2014 Carrie rated it really liked it
James Baldwin's beautiful introduction alone is worth reading - warm, sincere, and very moving - but Hansberry absolutely sparkles throughout.
Mar 09, 2011 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“For them that will do ‘half’ when ‘all’ is called for; for them that will slip and slide through life at the edge of their minds, never once pushing into the interior to see what wonders are hiding there—content to drift along on whatever gets them by, ‘cheating’ themselves, ‘cheating’ the world, ‘cheating’ Nature! That is what “C” means, my dear child—”—page 44

“Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all,
Pamela Greer
Dec 18, 2008 Pamela Greer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: YES YES YES
A beautiful story by a beautiful author. This is the story of the life of someone cut to short. Lorraine Hansberry is my favorite writer in the whole world! A Raisin in the Sun, is one of the best piece of works that was ever made. The play is brilliant and writtent by a briliant playwork, who died much too young therefore we dont' have many pieces of work to marvel. This is a glimpse of her short life. She inspired me to write and to just be.
3.5 STARS!!

After reading A Raisin in the Sun, I decided to check out this book from the library.

But, there were two major things I did not know about this book that affected my reading of it:

1. "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" is not a play written by Lorraine Hansberry.

2. The book was published posthumously.

What it IS, is a collection of Hansberry's letters, diary entries, interviews, play excerpts, artwork, and photographs. It is certainly challenging to weave all six elements and maintain an
Colette Hill
Nov 02, 2012 Colette Hill rated it it was amazing
I believe that Lorraine Hansberry is one of the first African-American women playwrights and authors whose works I viewed and read as a teenager in the late 60's.
Maya B
Feb 25, 2016 Maya B rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, biography
this was not your typical biography. it felt more like I was reading Hansberry's personal journal intertwined with the plays she wrote during her short life.
Brandon Archer
Feb 18, 2015 Brandon Archer rated it it was amazing
One of the best books that I have ever read. This book is about Lorraine Hansberry, one of the most famous black female writers that left us far too soon. The book speaks about her various life stages from her birth, to growing up in segregated Chicago, coming to New York, and going into details about some of her works (e.g. Raisin in the Sun). The book also shows her views on society (e.g. Civil Rights Movement) and her views on life in general. The introduction by James Baldwin gives great ins ...more
I read this book last year, since it is a common reference point and one I've especially meant to read as a young, black & (I like to think at least) gifted man. But I never broke down and did so until this past year. I was thoroughly impressed by the figure of Hansberry, which first struck me in the introduction written by the beloved African-American literary giant James Baldwin.

The collection of Hansberry's work includes the following, with my ratings out of five in parentheses:

Mar 18, 2014 Yossie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who feels
What can—nay, what do I say?

A life, a brilliant life, cut much too short. But I wonder what would have happened should she have lived any longer. I am left with the gripping sense that it was meant to be this way.

What do you even say after you read Lorraine Hansberry? Nothing, that's what.
You just sit there, stare at the cover of the book, and cry. Not tears of sorrow, because she wouldn't want you to do that.
Tears of—and for—life.
You cry because Lorraine Hansberry wrote the stuff of your life.
Aug 28, 2015 Esther rated it liked it
In my honest opinion this book was very enlightening and should be sought out by many teenage African Americans. As a fourteen year old African American girl of present day America I can not say I can or ever will relate to everything she writes in this book, but reading this book I could find two handfuls of things important things that I relate to my life. Even if not African American this book would be a very good example of life as a whole. It was especially helpful to see life back then and ...more
Hansberry's "To Be Young, Gifted and Black " is the story of a young Chi-town African-American woman who took the New York theater scene by storm with her play, A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry's truths about the black experience in levels of anger, love, bitterness, laughter, and defiantly pride in a voice that is all Hansberry in her element.

Picked up To Be Young, Gifted and Black in junior high school ( my junior high school was named Lorraine Hansberry I. S. 167) which started my curiosity as
Jan 10, 2010 Naomi rated it really liked it
Shelves: advisory-09-10
Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun happens to be one of my favorite books of all time. So reading an autobiography of her short life was bound to be interesting. James Baldwin, author of Go Tell It On The Mountain and other novels gives a really interesting preface, talking about his friendship with her and all of the memories, whether good or bad that they shared. The rest of the book chronicles her life growing up, including the landmark Hansberry vs. Lee Supreme court case and incorpora ...more
Feb 08, 2016 Dawn rated it liked it
Reading this book made me wish Lorraine Hansberry had lived long enough to pen her own memoir and write more of the work she had envisioned. Even though she is known for her work as a playwright, I yearn for more of her prose, more of her letters and art work, without so many excerpts from her plays. While I found some of the dramatic excerpts relevant in context, I found myself more moved by the narrative sections, maybe because they captured more of Hansberry in her own words.
Sep 02, 2014 Robin rated it it was amazing
A wonderful 'autobiography' of Lorraine Hansberry. The book is a form of collection of excerpts of her work, journals, speeches, and poetry, with some edits by her former husband. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this great woman.
Feb 22, 2014 Christie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was given to me for the first time by my mother when I was about ten years old. It made me think about being something more than what I was. It's pretty simple to say it changed my life. I still love it.
Aug 20, 2015 Virginia rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in source work
Recommended to Virginia by: read of it in the THIRD COAST book
It was insightful to read the pieces from the author of Raisin in the Sun. Original drawings and photos add to the book. The intervening years have not diminished this work. A great History and further understanding.
Sep 06, 2015 Mona rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.
Charissa J
Feb 16, 2016 Charissa J rated it it was amazing
Intertwining plays with essays with letters with her thoughts, this book gave an amazing in depth look into Lorraine hansberry and the contributions she has made to society. Her notion that it's not a negro condition but a human condition lends itself to her writing as that all humans are equal, I a powerful chord that still strikes today as there are still injustices and inequalities in our society.
Jun 10, 2008 Tracy rated it liked it
just started reading this after many years of intending to. got through the intro by james baldwin, new york in the 1950s, before bloomberg, guliani, koch; gonna listen to some nina simone before i return to the book.
my favorite story, and most cinematic, is young Loraine wearing a dreadful white fur coat her parents proudly bought her to school and getting beat up by the other kids.
Apr 13, 2013 Saleemah rated it really liked it
Recently I was able to see A Raisin in the Sun LIVE in Philadelphia. Of course this wasn't my first time seeing/reading the play but this time the experience was so different! When I got home I noticed I had this book on my shelf. I'm not sure how I got my hands on this jewel but I'm happy I did :)
Apr 26, 2009 Lia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
I read and re-read this as a young woman (nineteen and early twenties). It is a compilation of a bunch of play snippets and other tellings about her life. Somehow, every time I read it, I find myself understanding everything more clearly. Highly recommended.
Tatiana Richards Hanebutte
Feb 14, 2008 Tatiana Richards Hanebutte rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: errbody
My favorite line in the book, from a letter she wrote to her (ex) husband: I am a writer. I am going to write. One of those truths that is profound in its simplicity.
Dec 17, 2015 Patricia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays, favorites, classics
I read this book many years ago and absolutely loved it and this young woman. Well overdue for a reread. If you haven't read this novel you are missing out.
Joe Moffa
Jan 28, 2012 Joe Moffa rated it liked it
Understandably disjointed memoir from a great talent who died too young. Fascinating picture of New York in the 40's and 50's from one who was there.
Joi Reece
Jul 10, 2012 Joi Reece rated it it was amazing
Who doesn't love Lorraine Hansberry? If you enjoyed A Raisin in the Sun, you'll also find this a gratifying and worthwhile read.
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Lorraine Vivian Hansberry was an American playwright and writer. Hansberry inspired Nina Simone's song "To Be Young, Gifted and Black".

She was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway. Her best known work, the play "A Raisin in the Sun," highlights the lives of Black Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago. Hansberry's family had struggled against segregation, chall
More about Lorraine Hansberry...

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“I wish to live beacause life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them to be reason enough and--I wish to live. Moreover, because this is so, I wish others to live for generations and generations and generations and generations.” 29 likes
“Of love and my parents, there is little to be written; their relationship to their children was utilitarian. We were fed and housed and dressed and outfitted with more cash than our associates and that was all. We were also vaguely taught certain vague absolutes: that we were better than no one but infinitely superior to everyone...” 3 likes
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