To Be Young, Gifted, and Black is neither a typical nor a definitive autobiography. Nemiroff selects those ingredients of Hansberry’s written work that give the essence of her ideas and personality. Arranged in theatrical form, Hansberry’s own words inform readers of her character and the nature of the plays that she created. By presenting her writings as theater, Nemiroff successfully presents Hansberry to young adults.
Nemiroff frames his selections in the context of the world surrounding Hansberry. He refers to this biography as part self-portrait and part the result of his desire to place Hansberry within the context of her time. The work does justice to her genius as a playwright and provides insight into her all-embracing revolutionary spirit, which blossomed during the early 1960’s.
Although this book was not created specifically for young adults, they have appropriated this biography in response to Hansberry’s unwavering faith in humankind and her optimism in the future. Hansberry’s call for revolutionary changes in the fabric of society strikes a common chord in many young adults. The book captures the idyllic nature of her initial success as a playwright and the pathos of her sudden illness and early death.
Hansberry created memorable characters with depth and substance, and she expressed powerful ideas in a direct, persuasive style. Critic Emory Lewis stated that The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window contains a passage that may be the finest in modern American drama. Hansberry’s unabashed acceptance of the tragedy, absurdity, and inhumanity of humans, countered by her expectation that the human spirit will command its own destiny, is convincing and inspiring. Nature may appear pur-poseless and chaotic, she believed, but humans can impose purpose on life....
(The entire section is 749 words.)