Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

With To Be Young, Gifted, and Black, Robert Nemiroff has selected and adapted excerpts from Lorraine Hansberry’s writings to “relate the artist to the person to enable the words she left to tell her story without intrusion.” The book’s content explains her life chronologically, but the writings are not necessarily in chronological order.

A foreword by Nemiroff presents insights into Hansberry’s character and assesses her place in American literature. The postscript recounts the development of this biographical work and the subsequent dramatization of it. The illustrations consist of several drawings by Hansberry, photographs, documents such as her birth certificate and high school diploma, and playbills. The body of the work contains a prologue and three parts. The prologue includes pieces that express Hansberry’s defense of the human spirit and her belief that every human being is worthy of dramatic art.

Part 1 begins with notes and letters that inform the reader about Hansberry’s childhood in Chicago and her experiences at the University of Wisconsin. Partly influenced by a speech by Frank Lloyd Wright, she left school and moved to New York City to work on the newspaper Freedom, published by Paul Robeson. She married Nemiroff and declared herself to be a writer. Her first play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959), won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for the “Best Play of the Year” in 1959. Excerpts...

(The entire section is 529 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Cheney, Anne. Lorraine Hansberry. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1984.

Wilkerson, Margaret B. “The Dark Vision of Lorraine Hansberry: Excerpts from a Literary Biography.” Massachusetts Review 28 (Winter, 1987): 642-650.

Wilkerson, Margaret B. “Lorraine Hansberry.” In African American Writers, edited by Valerie Smith, Lea Baechler, and A. Walton Litz. New York: Scribner’s, 1991.