A Raisin in the Sun share button
Lorraine Hansberry
Format Paperback
Dimensions 6.94 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.41 (d)
Pages 160
Publisher Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication Date November 2004
ISBN 9780679755333
Book ISBN 10 0679755330
About Book
When it was first produced in 1959, A Raisin in the Sun was awarded the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for that season and hailed as a watershed in American drama. A pioneering work by an African-American playwright, the play was a radically new representation of black life. "A play that changed American theater forever."—The New York Times.

Sacred Fire

A Raisin in the Sun, written by the then twenty-nine-year-old Hansberry, was the "movin’ on up" morality play of the 1960s. Martin had mesmerized millions, and integration was seen as the stairway to heaven. Raisin had something for everyone, and for this reason it was the recipient of the prestigious New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

The place: a tenement flat in Southside, Chicago. The time: post—World War II. Lena Younger, the strong-willed matriarch, is the glue that holds together the Younger family. Walter Lee is her married, thirty-something son who, along with his wife and sister, lives in his mother’s apartment. He is short on meeting responsibilities but long on dreams. Beneatha that’s right, Beneatha is Waiter’s sister—an upwardly mobile college student who plans to attend medical school.

Mama Lena is due a check from her late husband’s insurance, and Waiter Lee is ready to invest it in a liquor store. The money represents his opportunity to assert his manhood. It will bring the jump start he needs to set his life right. Beneatha tells him that it’s "mama’s money to do with as she pleases," and that she doesn’t really expect any for her schooling. However, Mama wants to use her new money for a new beginning—in a new house, in a new neighborhood white.

Walter cries, and Mama relents. She refrains from paying cash for the house and places a deposit instead, giving Waiter the difference to share equally between his investment and Beneatha’s college fund. Walter squanders the entire amount. Meanwhile, Mama receives a call from the neighborhood "welcome committee" hoping to dissuade the family from moving in.

While roundly criticized for being politically accommodating to whites, Raisin accurately reflected the aspirations of a newly nascent black middle class.

Library Journal

The film version of Hansberry's landmark play A Raisin in the Sun (1961) was the first depiction of African American life seen by mainstream America. Hansberry included in her screen version several scenes of the Younger family interacting with the white world to show their deprivation and the subtle forms of racism they encountered in their everyday lives. In typical Hollywood fashion most of those scenes were cut, which softened the drama's angry voice. This new edition of the uncut original was edited by Hansberry's ex-husband and literary executor Nemiroff, who made a lifelong commitment to seeing that Hansberry's talent was fully recognized. African American collections as well as film collections will find this script of interest.-- Marcia L. Perry, Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, Mass.

Library Journal

Hansberry's (1930–65) landmark play tells the story of the Youngers, an African American family living in a run-down apartment in Chicago, who are about to inherit $10,000 from an insurance policy following the death of the family patriarch. As their dreams clash, the family's hopes for a better life threaten to dry up like "a raisin in the sun." Over 50 years after the play debuted, its words continue to resonate as unemployment, inflation, identity theft, and corrupt mortgage brokers have shattered the dreams of many. In this production starring Rutina Wesley of HBO's True Blood and a full cast, the individual performances—e.g., that by Judyann Elder, who plays Lena (Mama)—are exceptional, but the dynamic of the cast as a whole is lacking. Lines are sometimes shouted and overacted, as if the actors are more concerned with voice projection than the content and context of their roles. Overall, a decent production of a groundbreaking play but with room for improvement. An alternate full-cast recording of this play, starring Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, is available from Recorded Books. [See Audio NewsBriefs, LJ 2/1/11.—Ed.]—Valerie Piechocki, Prince George's Cty. Memorial Lib., Largo, MD

School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—This live, full-cast performance of Lorraine Hansberry's classic 1958 play tells the story of a working class African-American family living in a small apartment on Chicago's Southside. The matriarchal Lena "Mama" Younger awaits the arrival of her deceased husband's $10,000 life insurance check. Her son, Walter, maneuvers to invest in a liquor store, while her daughter, Bennie, hopes to attend medical school with the money. Meanwhile, Walter's wife struggles to decide whether to terminate an unplanned pregnancy when they're already struggling to support their firstborn. When Mama makes a down payment on a house in a white section of the city, the neighborhood association offers to buy them out. The family balks until Walter loses the balance of the money in a fraudulent business deal. Then they must weigh dreams against reality. This is a stirring performance of Hansberry's take on the American Dream deferred, which was inspired by Langston Hughes's 1951 poem "Harlem." Every actor digs into his or her character with verve, and audience reactions highlight the subtle humor. Characters are frequently addressed by name, and each actor's voice is distinct enough for listeners to easily identify the speaker. As Bennie, Rutina Wesley of HBO's True Blood adds some star power, but Judyann Elder as Mama is the heart and soul of this production. Her character is alternately maternal and tart, feisty and vulnerable. A commanding presentation of a seminal drama that feels timelier than ever.—Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA