Looking for Lorraine|Imani Perry
Looking for Lorraine : The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry
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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


  • ISBN-13: 9780807039830
  • ISBN-10: 0807039837
  • Publisher: Beacon Press
  • Publish Date: September 2019
  • Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.84 pounds
  • Page Count: 256

Book Clubs: Living between the lines

Four standout biographies of American female writers will foster excellent discussion for reading groups.

Tracy Daugherty’s The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion chronicles the life of essayist, journalist and fiction writer Didion, who made her name in the 1960s with era-defining works like Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album. The first biography on Didion, Daugherty’s brisk and fluid book contains a plethora of interesting topics for conversation, from the gender dynamics of Didion’s carefully constructed literary persona to the impact of her home state of California on her outlook and writing as they both evolved over the course of the 1960s and ’70s.

In Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin sheds new light on the background of visionary fiction author Jackson, who wrote the famously creepy novel The Haunting of Hill House (the basis for the 2018 Netflix series). Along the way, Franklin traces the roots of Jackson’s dark aesthetic, which mined the quiet tensions of wifehood in postwar America and specifically her own tumultuous marriage to create chilling psychological horror. How much have things improved for women, and specifically female artists? Ask your group, if you dare.

Read our review of Shirley Jackson by Ruth Franklin.

Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder proves that Wilder’s life was a lot tougher and more complicated than she depicted in her Little House books. Using rare source materials, Fraser documents the financial hardships, risky farm enterprises and vagaries of nature that dogged the Wilder and Ingalls families. Fraser’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography raises tricky questions of how American history has often been romanticized rather than truthfully portrayed. If you have any diehard Little House fans in your group, make sure they’re ready for a no-holds-barred reevaluation of the classic series and the family that inspired it.

Read our interview with Caroline Fraser.

Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry is an impassioned investigation of Hansberry, who deserves to be remembered for much more than her iconic play, A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry used her platform to promote civil rights and support African leaders fighting against colonialism, and she joined one of the first lesbian organizations in America. (Hansberry was married to activist Robert B. Nemiroff but identified as a lesbian.) Like Didion’s, Hansberry’s life can spur conversation about many fascinating, thorny aspects of midcentury America.