Looking for Lorraine

The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry
Narrated by: LisaGay Hamilton
Length: 8 hrs and 27 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (80 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the 2019 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction

Winner of the Shilts-Grahn Triangle Award for Lesbian Nonfiction

Winner of the 2019 Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award

A New York Times Notable Book of 2018

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.

A Black Caucus of the American Library Association Honor Book for Nonfiction

A 2019 Pauli Murray Book Prize Finalist

©2018 Imani Perry (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“The steady cadence of Hamilton’s voice creates a mellow, informative, and poised narration of her story. Hamilton is not only informing the listener but also teaching and, most of all, sharing the uncommon details that shaped this energetic woman.... This audiobook is like watching a documentary of someone paving the way for future artist-activists.” (AudioFile Magazine)

“Perry seeks to deepen our appreciation in this richly dimensional portrait of a brightly blazing artist, thinker, and activist.... Perry does not dwell on the minutiae of traditional biographical coverage of what, when, and where, focusing, instead, on who and why, on inner drama rather than exterior events. Mining writings private and published, collecting memories, tracking the reverberations of Hansberry’s personality, words, and actions, and, at times, entering the narrative, Perry illuminates with arresting impact Hansberry’s thoughts, feelings, and revolutionary social consciousness.... Perry’s ardent, expert, and redefining work of biographical discovery brings light, warmth, scope, and enlightening complexity to the spine-straightening story of a brilliant, courageous, seminal, and essential American writer.” (Booklist, starred review)

“Its strongest chapters - on A Raisin in the Sun and Lorraine’s coming into her own as a public intellectual - are masterly syntheses of research and analysis. It’s a joy for devotees to encounter some record of Hansberry’s influences, including the Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the Irish playwright Sean O’Casey and the French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir.... Perry makes a welcome case for a fresh assessment of Hansberry’s nondramatic works: her short stories, many published pseudonymously in lesbian magazines, and her many letters and op-eds on politics and literature for The Village Voice and The New York Times.” (The New York Times Book Review)

"An intimate portrait of the artist as a black woman at the crossroads.... Perry infuses the narrative with a sense of urgency and enthusiasm because she believes Hansberry has something to teach us in these ‘complicated times’. Impressively, she tells her subject’s story in a tightly packed 200 pages. Perry also smartly delves into the inspirations for Hansberry’s brilliant A Raisin in the Sun and engagingly explores Hansberry’s profound friendships with James Baldwin and Nina Simone.... Throughout this animated and inspiring biography, Perry reminds us that the ‘battles Lorraine fought are still before us: exploitation of the poor, racism, neocolonialism, homophobia, and patriarchy.’” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) 

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Inspirational & Beautifully Written

Terrific description and thoughtfulness about the artistic and life journey of Lorraine Hansbury. Whether you are Black, a Women, someone who identifies with sexual orientation still not full accepted, writer, social activist or human who wants to more fully understand this is a great book. Thank you

4 people found this helpful

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We would have been great friends

I've read Hansberry's work and had been looking for a comprehensive intellectual biography of her for a long time. This one is excellent in discussing Lorraine Hansberry's family, relationships, creative process, activism and inner life. She sounds like a lot of women that I knew in college and grad school: brilliant, energetic, fun-loving, but also passionately committed to social justice and confident in her ability to make it a reality. The book has left me feeling an immense sense of loss that she died so young, because there were so many more contributions that she could have made, and because her voice was so important to the civil rights movement, to what would become the LGBTQ community, and to the arts. At the same time, I have to feel grateful that she accomplished as much as she did in the time that she had. Someone, though, really needed to tell Lisa Gay Hamilton how to pronounce Andre Gide's name correctly ("jeed," not "guide"). Otherwise, no quibbles about her reading of this biography. This is one audiobook that I will not archive, because I will be listening to it again.

3 people found this helpful

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Radiant

This book, like its subject, was radiant. The story of Lorraine’s life is peopled with familiar names — Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, Nina Simone, etc — but even though I’d heard of ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ I didn’t know anything about it or about Lorraine Hansberry. I did not expect to be so gripped by the life of a woman I’d barely heard of. I haven’t read a lot of biographies so I don’t know how common it is to find one that reads like a love letter to its subject. Imani Perry’s language in speaking of Lorraine seems to sing with love for her, and LisaGay Hamilton’s reading of those words is lovely. This single book probably teaches black history of this time period as well as any school course in the country.

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Beyond The Raisin

This book goes far beyond Lorraine Hansberry as just the first black female playwright on Broadway, but goes deeper into who she was, who she wasn’t and what she stood for.

1 person found this helpful