...Perry mines Hansberry’s life, her indefatigable radicalism, and her queerness, and she prods us to consider what this fuller portrait of a categorically transgressive figure reveals about the state of social justice today ... While Hansberry’s family lived comfortably...she quickly learned, as a child, that her relative prominence was no armor against a racist world ... Jim Crow threatened all black Americans, class or any other scraping of privilege be damned, profoundly shaped Hansberry’s broad black consciousness. Years later, at a rally in 1963, she declared that 'between the Negro intelligentsia, the Negro middle class, and the Negro this-and-that—we are one people. … As far as we are concerned, we are represented by the Negroes in the streets of Birmingham!' ... In fitting herself into Hansberry’s story with autobiographical elements, Perry offers a bracing air of familiarity and urgency around the artist, whose legacy has faded since her death from cancer in 1965. By crisscrossing then and now, Perry insists how important it is that our connection to this history—to Hansberry—survive.
Imani Perry, a Philadelphia resident and Princeton University’s Hughes-Rogers professor of African-American studies, considers Hansberry her muse. As a child who spent her summers in Chicago, Perry was exposed to the playwright’s work at a young age; as Perry grew, so did her admiration of Hansberry — which is why, Perry said, she wrote her new book, Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry.
Imani Perry, a prolific African-American studies scholar at Princeton, is spot on when she writes in her new book, Looking for Lorraine, that Hansberry 'has had far too little written about her' ... Yet it is difficult to assess a book that admits within its first two paragraphs that it has no idea what it is. Perry concedes that what she has written is 'less a biography than a genre yet to be named' ... Looking for Lorraine is something between a fan’s notes and an academic monograph, less an unpacking of the archive to reveal the life than an exercise in putting the archive in historical context ... Perry makes a welcome case for a fresh assessment of Hansberry’s nondramatic works ... Yet much of the material Perry discusses is drawn from Hansberry’s published writings, which might be a negligible point if the body of work she left behind were not easily consumable over a matter of days ... I frequently found myself wishing that she’d had more confidence, either to break through her skittishness surrounding Hansberry’s queerness or simply to devote the book to her adulation for Hansberry’s work.