Lorraine Hansberry: The Life Behind A Raisin in the Sun by Shields

Lorraine Hansberry: The Life Behind A Raisin in the Sun by Shields

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“Never before, in the entire history of the American theater, had so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen on the stage.”
—James Baldwin on A Raisin in the Sun

New York Times bestselling author Charles J. Shields’s authoritative biography of one of the twentieth century’s most admired playwrights dives into the moving story of the woman behind A Raisin in the Sun—in Baldwin’s words, this “very young woman, with an overpowering vision.”

Written when she was just twenty-eight, Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark work is one of the most widely anthologized, read, and performed plays of the American stage and is listed by the National Theatre in Washington, DC, 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 American playwright, as well as the youngest, to win a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. She imbued all her work with “the light which was Lorraine,” as Baldwin put it, a legacy that has lasted much beyond her untimely passing at age thirty-four from pancreatic cancer.

Shields examines the parts of Lorraine Hansberry’s life that have escaped the public eye: the influence of her upper-class background, her fight for peace and nuclear disarmament, the reason she embraced communism during the Cold War, and her dependence on her white husband—her best friend, critic, and promoter. The issues of identity, class, sexuality, and race that Lorraine struggled with are ever more relevant and urgent today.

This dramatic telling of a passionate life—one of artistry, discovery, and self-reinvention—uses previously unpublished interviews with close friends in politics and theater, privately held correspondence, and in-depth research to reconcile old mysteries and raise new questions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