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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  478 ratings  ·  121 reviews
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
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 9th 2018 by Beacon Press (first published September 18th 2018)
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Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
A concise biography of an extraordinary writer and activist, Looking for Lorraine aims to elevate Hansberry to the level of fame attained by other recently repopularized radical Black artists, from James Baldwin to Nina Simone. Like Baldwin and Simone, who play pivotal roles in this biography, Hansberry fell out of favor with the general public after the collapse of the mass social movements of the sixties and seventies, even as her most accomplished work remained widely read and watched. Here ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Looking For Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry” (2018) is a superb fact filled biographical work that explores the life of this famous playwright, activist, intellectual and feminist artist- writer. Although Lorraine (LH) was widely recognized and celebrated when her award winning play “A Raisin In The Sun” (1959) appeared on Broadway, author Imani Perry clearly illustrated there were many things previously unknown in LH’s short and extraordinary life, and this is the ...more
Vicky "phenkos"
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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 ...more
I never seem to enjoy the genre of biography as much as I think I'm going to (I've realized memoir and autobiography both appeal to me more for whatever reason). But I quite liked this, at least as much as I have other biographies of historical LGBTQ people. I knew very little of her going into this and thought Lorraine was a complex, fascinating artist who fought against many different forms of social injustice from the 40s - early 60s.
Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)
Well worth a view or listen. She's influenced me as I write, as I love, and as I live.
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.

Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I want to start this review with a simple statement: This might be one of the best biographies I have read to date. I don't throw around this sentence lightly but from start to finish I was engrossed in Imani Perry's "Looking for Lorraine. The Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry".

Based on archival material (some of which has only been available since 2010), Hansberry's published writing, and loads of contextual matter, Perry paints a portrait of the playwright (best known for "Raisin in the
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I’m not sure how to divvy up the blame between the author and the audio narrator, but this was just mind numbingly boring despite its biographical subject herself being so important and so darn interesting! I woke up at the 33% mark long enough to bail.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading this book!

Though Lorraine Hansberry has passed, her impressive spirit (and leadership) is still waiting for us to catch up.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
This relatively short biography provides a great deal of information about Lorraine Hansberry's life--the facts of her family and childhood, her activism, her writings, her impact on other writers and artists, her commitment to the black community.

The writing is very good, although despite its length I felt that some sections dragged but overall it presented a powerful and moving portrait of this great writer who is underappreciated. Of course her greatest work, A Raisin in the Sun continues to
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A communion, but far too short - like her life. I should note that after discussing this with one of my book clubs, it wasn't most readers' cup of tea (though the sample set is admittedly small). People felt it was still too distant from Hansberry and that the author in the interest of being accurate was overly cautious and left too many key items a mystery - that perhaps she should have waited until there was greater access to Hansberry's papers to write the book. This is somewhat true, but it ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a very thorough, meticulously researched and comprehensive biography of Lorraine Hansberry and I found it both interesting and illuminating. But it is also verges on the memoir (which the author acknowledges) of someone who obviously has enormous admiration and affection for Hansberry. So much so that the book felt too much like a hagiography, and for me the writing was overly subjective. Nothing really wrong with that essentially, but I prefer my biographies to show more of a balanced ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
Lorraine Hansberry was a remarkable woman, and Imani Perry does a fantastic job in exploring her experiences and bringing her to life in Looking for Lorraine. She was truly ahead of her time, and we should all aspire to be as intersectional and global in our activism and as thoughtful in our interactions and words.
I will now be searching out more of Hansberry’s work to read!
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Finished: 15.10.2018
Genre: biography
Rating: A+
Published: 2018
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 Years

Learn about Lorraine here....
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
There is a difference between the nonfiction written by someone who has an insatiable and unbridled curiosity and the nonfiction that is birthed from love and appreciation. This book is the latter. A beautiful dedication to a woman who deserves our continued praises and honors. I see why Baldwin loved her.
Black Queer Disabled Radical Genius. A must-read.
Hannah Cook
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’d never heard of her before I started but had tears in eyes at the end when she dies
 Imani ♥ ☮
I can't say more lovely things about this book than what I am able to muster tonight as I write this review. I am not one much for memoirs but recently have taken a liking for them. Somewhat coincidentally, another memoir that I've recently enjoyed is Negroland which, like Looking for Lorraine, deals with the subjects of class, race and gender of the Chicago bourgeois. The point is, I did not know how I would actually like this book although I both adore Professor Perry and Lorraine Hansberry. ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
*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
Aleatha Terrell
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Welp I finished this book with tears in my eyes but what else is new. Imani Perry is such a tender and ambitious writer and thinker. I left this book with deep impressions about Lorraine’s work, her politics, her loneliness, friendships...the fact that her body failed her at such a young age devastated me even though I knew it was coming. That’s a testament to Imani’s writing. I recommend this to anyone interested in Hansberry specifically, or black art, black queerness generally.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Simply put, this was a treat. Imani Perry's documentation of the life of Lorraine Hansberry (I'm not sure this is a biography in the most literal sense, but it reads a lot like one) is unflinchingly honest, compassionate, and thoughtful. In addition to providing readers with a digestible catalogue of what are undoubtedly thousands of documents and pieces of information that comprised a part of Hansberry's life, Perry provides a level of care and gentleness in her excavation that I am not used ...more
Joshunda Sanders
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's hard not to gush about this biography because it's about one of my favorite creatives and writers by one of America's most prolific and insightful scholars. Hansberry was only alive for 30 years, but she fit a celebrated play -- A Raisin in The Sun --; a glorious friendship with her fellow queer and visionary friend James Baldwin; righteous dissent misconstrued as anger (which Perry rightfully highlights here as a dagger lobbed against Black people then [as it is now, I believe]) complex ...more
Britt Aamodt
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have so many feelings about Lorraine Hansberry. Every time I think of her, I get this literal twinge in my heart of bittersweet love and pure admiration.

Before reading this book, I knew very little about her. I haven’t even read ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ (yet). But I’m so glad to have learned of her, and what an incredible and important intellectual she was (that alliteration, tho).

I see so much of myself in her, even beyond our obvious intersecting identities as black, lesbian, feminists (and not
Debbie Smyth
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is probably the most intimate bio I've ever read. The author respectfully uses Hansberry's writings and other research to introduce us to Lorraine as a person, a human being in all her dimensions; not just as a famous black women playwright. The author's love for her subject is very apparent but she doesn't let that love get in the way of presenting Lorraine as a full being. An documentary last year gave some insight into Lorraine's radical nature and love of her people; the book dives deeply ...more
Mar 14, 2019 added it
It took a little bit to get into it and frankly I almost put the book aside, but wow I'm so glad I stuck with it. I can't frame into words what a gift getting exposed to Lorraine's legacy in this way has been. At such a young age she was the foremother to some of the great thinkers and doers we know today. She was expansive, complex, and imperfectly human. I'm so happy that her story gets retelling and she is placed in her rightful place in history as a woman in bloom.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
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Imani Perry, a professor of African American studies at Princeton, first appeared in print at age 3 in the Birmingham (Alabama) News in a photo of her and her parents at a protest against police brutality. She has published widely on topics ranging from racial inequality to hip-hop and is active across various media. She earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a ...more
“We are running out of time, the earth is ravaged, our bodies are indefinite; Lorraine reminds us to make use of each moment.” 1 likes
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