Carter, Steven R. Hansberry’s Drama: Commitment Amid Complexity. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991.
Carter’s perceptive study of Hansberry’s complete dramatic works includes a useful introduction that details the relationships between Hansberry’s social, cultural, and political views and her artistic vision. The book also includes a substantial chapter on A Raisin in the Sun.
Domina, Lynn. Understanding A Raisin in the Sun: A Student’s Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998.
This casebook provides students of A Raisin in the Sun with a complete analysis of the play’s themes and dramatic structure. It also includes chapters detailing the historical and literary contexts of the play, as well as a series of essays exploring topics related to race, gender, and segregation.
Halberstam, David. The Fifties. New York: Villard Books, 1993.
Halberstam offers a sweeping history of the 1950s that touches on diverse issues related to society, politics, economics, and cultural history. Students of A Raisin in the Sun will find Halberstam’s book useful for understanding the broader culture that undercurrents the events of the play.
Hughes, Langston. Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.
Hansberry took the title of her play from a poem by Langston Hughes titled “Harlem,” which is collected in this volume, along with other works by this seminal poet from the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s signaled a rebirth of African American arts and sponsored hope and dreams for a better future for Black people in the United States. Although Hansberry wrote in the wake of the Harlem Renaissance, the fact that she references one of the central texts of that movement indicates its importance as a symbolic reference point for the play.
May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. New York: Basic Books, 1988.
Originally published in 1988, the revised edition of May’s classic exploration of family life during the Cold War era provides additional background for understanding the importance of home life in the 1950s in the United States. May’s influential concept of “domestic containment” explains how the fear of Communism helped uphold a gendered division of labor, in which men work to provide a stable income for the family, while women stay home.
Meyerowitz, Joanne, ed. Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945–1960. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.
This book collects a series of fifteen essays that revise the stereotypical image of women in America in the 1950s. Unlike the usual story in which women who worked during World War II relinquished their jobs and happily returned to the home, the contributors to Meyerowitz’s edited volume examine the work and activism of a diverse array of American women in the postwar period.
Nemiroff, Robert, ed. To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. With an introduction by James Baldwinscpwin. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969.
Edited by Hansberry’s literary executor (and former husband), this volume stitches text from Hansberry’s plays, essays, and letters into a memoir of the playwright’s life and achievements. The memoir chronicles Hansberry’s life from her childhood in Chicago to her premature death at the age of 34.
Smith, Judith. Visions of Belonging: Family Stories, Popular Culture, and Postwar Democracy, 1940–1960. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
Smith’s study of popular culture from 1940 to 1960 explores how a range of stories about family, including Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, entered the collective imagination and reshaped ideas about who could count as being representative of American society.