Last year September after rendering my poem “I am not Nigerian 2” at Loudthotz Poetry Open Reading (a poetry club that meets every 2nd Thursday of the month in Lagos, Nigeria) I was presented with a book called “A Raisin in the Sun”.
I received the book with glee (same way I would receive any book, bibliophile that I am) and then proceeded to carry it around in my bag for weeks without turning a page.
Several months later I saw the dear little book tucked away in a corner of my very overloaded bookshelf and pulled it out in wonder. I thought to myself that I must have become a lazy reader indeed to have neglected such a little book so.
One would think that I took to reading the book right away after this discovery however once again it got tossed on a table for another few days before I found myself picking it up with a resolute mind to read it once and for all. Shame on me for wasting so much time because the book “A Raisin in the Sun” turned out to be a fantastic book.
A 1959 play set in South Chicago tells a fast paced story of an African-American family comprising a grandmother, her two children, a daughter-in-law and a grandson. The grandmother expects a cheque from an insurance company after the death of her husband, it is a cheque for the sum of ten thousand dollars. The whole family is expectant as this cheque could change their lives. From the description given of their current home where they all live, it is apparent that they are not rich. This cheque is therefore anticipated by all. Her son Walter desires to use the money for a liquor business, his sister Beneatha wants to become a doctor and needs money for school.
The play moves from scene to scene as the cheque arrives and the grandmother chooses to buy a house in a nice neighbourood where African-Americans don’t live. She decided to hand over the rest of the money to her son (though not her initial intention) to put aside some for his sister and make something of what is left.
Walter is duped and loses all the money. The whole family is distressed.
The main characters (Ruth, Walter, Travis, Beneatha, Mama) come to life immediately the first Act begins, the playwright packed in few characters but each character is well developed. With the dialogue, the wit and humor descends on the reader and you will find your self chuckling in parts at the sarcasm and the sheer brilliance of the play. Other characters like Asagai,George, Mr. Lindner and Mrs. Johnson complete the cast and gives the play the necessary lift. As for the language, Ebonics is used in parts and gives the true experience of an African-American family in conversation.
One of the themes that the play presents is the segregation between the black and the whites, when Mr Lindner comes to the family to attempt to pay them so they don’t move into a white neighbourhood, they proudly refuse. Later when Walter is duped he makes to take up Mr Lindner’s offer but when Mr Lindner shows up, Walter saves face and rejects the offer thereby upholding the family’s dignity. When the play ends, the family is moving to the new place even though everything else is uncertain.
The play is so cleverly written and authentic in its appreciation of the struggles of a black family, the inner struggles of a young black woman like Beneatha whose friendship with the unique character of Asagai, is able to appreciate her nappy hair and her true self.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
*Lorraine Hansberry was the first African-American female author to have a play performed on Broadway.
Kemi Bonuola wrote this review.