Raisin in the Sun
9/10 (Heavy-handed at end, not enough scene breaks)
I somehow missed this in my high school formation and had never heard of it until I got to North Carolina, where it’s a mandatory piece of the 9th grade curriculum. After reading it I’m glad to say I can understand why it’s considered so important here. It’s a powerful examination of hope, dreams, integrity, racism, desegregation and selling out, and it is both insightful and accessible. These themes are particularly pertinent to younger readers as they begin to confront the reality of having to reconcile their own dreams with commercial and social necessities.
There are so many important points made in various characters’ speeches that you could spend hours deconstructing them all and develop each one into its own thematic work. The minor character Asagai in particular has extremely rich dialogue, on par with the other major philosopher of the play, “Mama” Lena Younger. It’s an all around terrific work and I recommend reading it in conjunction with the Danny Glover stage adaptation from the 80s.
My only minor issue with it comes at the very end, when Mama explicitly spells out how Walter “come into manhood.” It would have been perfect just leaving it unsaid. Additionally, the structure of the play is somewhat cumbersome, with many of the scenes being quite long and encompassing many different interactions with a revolving cast of characters. At least the book would have benefited from having more scene separations.