Lorraine Hansberry: The Life Behind A Raisin in the Sun (Hardcover)

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The moving story of the life of the woman behind A Raisin in the Sun, the most widely anthologized, read, and performed play of the American stage, by the New York Times bestselling author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee

Written when she was just twenty-eight, Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark A Raisin in the Sun is listed by the National Theatre as one of the hundred most significant works of the twentieth century. Hansberry was the first Black woman to have a play performed on Broadway, and the first Black and youngest American playwright to win a New York Critics’ Circle Award.

Charles J. Shields’s authoritative biography of one of the twentieth century’s most admired playwrights examines the parts of Lorraine Hansberry’s life that have escaped public knowledge: the influence of her upper-class background, her fight for peace and nuclear disarmament, the reason why she embraced Communism during the Cold War, and her dependence on her white husband—her best friend, critic, and promoter. Many of the identity issues about class, sexuality, and race that she struggled with are relevant and urgent today.

This dramatic telling of a passionate life—a very American life through self-reinvention—uses previously unpublished interviews with close friends in politics and theater, privately held correspondence, and deep research to reconcile old mysteries and raise new questions about a life not fully described until now.

About the Author

Charles J. Shields is the author of Harper Lee’s New York Times bestselling biography Mockingbird, the Kurt Vonnegut biography And So It Goes, and the biography of John Edward Williams, The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel. Shields has spoken to hundreds of large audiences in schools, libraries, museums, and historic theaters and appeared in newspapers and magazines worldwide, including the Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, Huffington Post, and New York Times.

Praise For…

“Drawing on meticulously researched sources, including previously unpublished interviews and private correspondence, Shields offers an illuminating portrait of Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) and her tragically brief but formidable career…A revealing and rewarding biography documenting the life, work, and historical relevance of a great American author.”
Kirkus Reviews, *starred review*

“[W]ell-researched…Shields explores [Hansberry’s] bifurcated youth in Chicago as a child who grew up as the daughter in a wealthy family yet was subjected to racism…[and] shows how an adult Hansberry became deeply attracted to communism…a fine introduction to Hansberry’s world.”
Publishers Weekly

“Amid a welcome resurgence of interest in Lorraine Hansberry, Charles J. Shields’s biography is distinguished by its narrative verve, its sweeping research, and its deep dive into the playwright’s several families, given and chosen. The joint history of A Raisin in the Sun and its ever-young author has never been richer.”
William J. Maxwell, author of F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostwriters Framed African American Literature, and professor of English and African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250205537
ISBN-10: 1250205530
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: January 18th, 2022
Pages: 384
Language: English