DOZENS OF WORKS of literary criticism and biographies for young readers (but not adults) have been written about playwright Lorraine Hansberry (1930–1965), author of the classic play A Raisin in the Sun (1959). Compressing her life, one in which her charisma, personal warmth, intellectual confidence, hard-hitting and often unpopular political and racial justice stances were much in evidence, must have been no easy task for Imani Perry, professor of African-American studies at Princeton.
Looking for Lorraine is a deeply felt biography in which Perry expresses her feelings of oneness with Hansberry through similarities in their backgrounds and reactions to political events. The book also offers critiques of many of Hansberry’s works, both published and unpublished. Its title was chosen as an homage to Isaac Julien’s 1989 film Looking for Langston. Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” contains the line that provided the title for A Raisin in the Sun: “What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?/ … Or does it explode?”