“Oh but my joy of today
Is that we can all be proud to say
To be young, gifted and black
Is where it’s at”
– Nina Simone
January 12th marked the 50th anniversary of Lorraine Hansberry’s passing and she’s been on my mind ever since. Lorraine was a brilliant mind, filled wholly with wisdom, esteem and consciousness much before her time. It is a known fact within the literary community that Lorraine was extremely underrated during her short life on earth, for a variety of reasons.
For one, she only lived to be 34, succumbing to cancer in January 1965. For two, she had only released one major work of art, ‘
A Raisin in the Sun,' which despite its huge success, was also notably controversial for its time.
Lorraine was a renegade. A literary and ideological revolutionary. It was reflected in every word she wrote, every play she produced, and every moment she shared with the world. Her love and compassion for the world and its inhabitants was out of this one of a kind.
There are few human beings in the history of the world, I would argue, who can measure up to the immense love and care Lorraine held for others. You could see it in the smile, frown or complexity of her face in every photo she took.
“Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely…’ (L.H. p. 137)
In any regard, in celebration of the life she shared with us, the legacy she left behind and her words that have yet to be appreciated or unpacked, I want to dedicate the first #MotivationalMonday book review, to Auntie Lorraine.
L.H.’s ‘To Be Young, Gifted & Black’ was one of the most impactful pieces of works I have ever read as a person, Black woman, writer and humanitarian. The book is a beautiful compilation of Lorraine’s written works, from letters and plays, to diary entries and random notes, put together by her husband Robert Nemiroff.
Compiled and published post-mortem, the book is not only a recording of the life and times of Lorraine Hansberry, but also an eclectic tribute to her memory as a wife, daughter, friend, confidant, mentor and all around friggin’ amazing person.
“I am thinking of a time when revolutionaries tended to be made out of idealism rather than cynicism” (L.H. p. 247).
Her ability to speak to the world, every single person in the world, through each word she wrote, was mind-boggling. Every piece of work and writing I read in the book, spoke into each corner of my existence, as if she knew me and understood exactly what I need to hear.
I am not too apt on analyzing the works of other artists, if for nothing other than highlighting its beauty. In such, I can only review ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black,
' in such a way that honors what her story and shared words meant to me as an individual, as a reader, a writer and a lover of mankind.
It is my sincerest intention for you all to delve into the underrated, overlooked and truly incredible world of Lorraine Hansberry and her mind. Hands down, there’s no better way to do that, than to start with ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black.’
Also, keep in mind, I purchased my book from Amazon
for less than $3 and it was in great condition. So, there is an amazing option for owning the book, without breaking ya pockets. And there is always the very free and nowadays, underused, public library.
Whatever suits you, suits me. Just read the book! I’m sure it’ll change the way you look at yourself, the world or at least the mind of an amazing Black and American literary queen.
“For me, there is a strong and powerful current of justice in the fact: a representative figure of Nazism tried on Jewish soil. Under Jewish justice. By Jewish judges. I am moved by the thought of it. It is about time” (L.H. p. 177).
And then, you can come back to this awesome book review, that suggested for you to read it, and leave a comment thanking me. Or, cursing me. But I’m going for the former. Any who, read it! For real! And may you love it as much as I did!
As you might have noticed, I listed some of my favorite quotes from the book, that I also find to be less known. May they peak enough of your interest for you to read the book.
I also posted the tribute song, To Be Young, Gifted & Black, by Nina Simone, as it’s the most fitting piece of music to sing to the legacy of L.H. And of course, there are the amazing photos from the book, that I’ve posted. All living reminders of why you should so read this book!
In ending, I’d like to send the most stupendous energy of love, hope, thanksgiving and graciousness to Auntie Lorraine for all she gave to and did for the American writer, person and lover of mankind.
May her words live and more importantly, speak into the hearts of people worldwide, for an eternity. And may her love, compassion and empathy infect the spirit of the wicked world as we know it. Sleep in peace Queen L.H.
“Take a needle thus. Peer through the eye. As much as you can see will be a part of the world. But it will be a true part, will it not? Therefore, set down what you have seen and call it the Truth; if anyone argues with you, explain to the fool that it is harder to look through a needle than to look around one…” (L.H. p. 176).