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Throughout this animated and inspiring biography, Perry reminds us that the “battles Lorraine fought are still before us:...

An intimate portrait of the artist as a black woman at the crossroads.

Perry (African-American Studies/Princeton Univ.; May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem, 2018, etc.) feels strongly that Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) is an “important writer who has far too little written about her [and]…about her life.” This is a deeply personal book, less a biography than perhaps a “third person memoir” or “homage.” Perry infuses the narrative with a sense of urgency and enthusiasm because she believes Hansberry has something to teach us in these “complicated times.” Impressively, she tells her subject’s story in a tightly packed 256 pages. In her early years, Hansberry was radiant. The middle-class girl who grew up on Chicago’s South Side wasn’t the best student, but she had a “gift for leadership.” She displayed a sense of melancholy and loneliness as well as an insatiable intellectual yearning. After briefly attending the University of Wisconsin, she moved to New York, first to Greenwich Village and then Harlem, where she immersed herself in politics and 1950s activism with other intellectuals and artists. She married her partner in the radical left, Robert Nemiroff, in 1953. They divorced, amicably, in 1964, and Nemiroff would remain a friend, caretaker, and champion of her writings and legacy. Perry argues that we must deal head-on with Hansberry’s sexuality; it’s “unquestionable” that she was a lesbian, and the author discusses it in detail. Perry also smartly delves into the inspirations for Hansberry’s brilliant The Raisin in the Sun (kitchenette buildings, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes) and engagingly explores Hansberry’s profound friendships with James Baldwin and Nina Simone. In her later years, Hansberry was an American radical; radicalism “was both a passion and a commitment. It was, in fact, a requirement for human decency.”

Throughout this animated and inspiring biography, Perry reminds us that the “battles Lorraine fought are still before us: exploitation of the poor, racism, neocolonialism, homophobia, and patriarchy.”

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-6449-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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