The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is awarded for excellence in the art of biography. This prize of $5,000 goes to the author of a distinguished work published in the United States during the previous calendar year. The winning title is considered by the judges to be a work of exceptional literary, narrative, and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research.
From the judges’ citation: “Lorraine Hansberry packed a lot of ambition into a short life. When she died in 1965, at only 34 years old, she was already a New York legend: her award-winning drama, A Raisin in the Sun, about a black family living in segregated Chicago, became the first ever play by a black woman to debut on Broadway. But she did much more than write plays: Hansberry was also a devoted civil rights activist and venerated public intellectual, and a friend and colleague of James Baldwin, W.E.B DuBois, Nina Simone, and Malcolm X. Imani Perry’s Looking For Lorraine celebrates Hansberry, in all her accomplishments and appetites, but it does not shy away from the complexities and entanglements that made Hansberry’s life story as dramatic and serpentine as one of her plays. Perry approaches her subject with both empathy and a sharp, critical eye; this is a biography that exercises several muscles at once. Perry’s sentences are intimate, warm, and crisp; in considering Hansberry in all of her prismatic multiplicities, Perry has written a singular book.