In profile: E. Lynn Harris.E. Lynn Harris--he of The New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times best-seller list and the 800,000-plus book sales--sits in a Chicago diner
The Chicago Diner is a vegetarian restaurant located on Chicago's north side. It is located in the Lakeview (Chicago) neighborhood on Halsted Street. Opened in 1983, the diner offers all-American style menu items that are strictly vegetarian, and most are suitable for without drawing much attention, except from the Latino busboy who gives the handsome African-American a lingering once-over.
Harris doesn't notice. He's happily chatting about his loving relationship and his just-completed novel. "I've been alone for so long and struggling for so long that now the focus is to not look over my shoulder to see what could go wrong," he says. "I'm older now, more mature, and more sure of what in fact makes me happy. Right now life is good, life is very blessed."
Four years ago Harris had no idea he'd be a literary sensation. His first novel, Invisible Life (referring to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Invisible Man
(Griffin) character made invisible by chemicals. [Br. Lit.: Invisible Man]
See : Invisibility ), was self-published. Harris himself hawked it to African-American bookstores, beauty shops, and grocery stores. In less than a year, he'd exhausted the 10,000-copy first printing and handed over vending duties to Doubleday, which reissued it. Since then Harris has been excerpted in Essence and featured in publications from Newsweek to the Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times
Morning daily newspaper. Established in 1881, it was purchased and incorporated in 1884 by Harrison Gray Otis (1837–1917) under The Times-Mirror Co. (the hyphen was later dropped from the name). . He's now that rarest of rarities: a best-selling black male author.
Invisible Life, like Harris's other books--Just As I Am, And This Too Shall Pass, and If This World Were Mine, which comes out in September--are Chicago-based stories about black gay and bisexual men and their journeys to find themselves. Yet for all his success in the mainstream, Harris has been virtually ignored in the lesbian and gay community. Amazingly, Harris has never been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award Lambda Literary Awards (also known as the "Lammies") are awarded yearly by the US-based Lambda Literary Foundation to published works which celebrate or explore LGBT themes. Categories include Humor, Romance and Biography. . "I think this is the first article ever written about me in the national gay press," he adds, "except for a little thing that ran in something of a fashion magazine."
Asked to explain the lack of coverage, Harris sighs. "Maybe because I'm not interested in the politics of 'being gay,'" he says. "That may bother some people. I try not to complain, to take the high road. To say the white gay community is racist is--well, they just wouldn't get it. They live in their own world. It's like they say to black lesbians and gays, 'Sure, you can come on and ride with us because there's strength in numbers Strength In Numbers was a bluegrass supergroup formed in the late 1980s. The group featured Béla Fleck, Mark O'Connor, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, and Edgar Meyer. They released their only album, Telluride Sessions, in 1989. , but I don't really want to know you.'"
Still, Harris is hopeful. He notices that at his book signings--traffic-stopping events that draw 400 to 500 people, whether at chain stores, Afrocentric centers, or the occasional gay bookstore--a growing number of white gays and lesbians show up to hear him read and to buy his books.
"Sixty percent of my audience is black women--straight black women," explains Harris with a laugh. "They're my sisters. They're the smartest, most loyal readers. Another 10% or so is straight black men. The women are reading me, so the men come to find out what's going on What's Going On is a record by American soul singer Marvin Gaye. Released on May 21, 1971 (see 1971 in music), What's Going On reflected the beginning of a new trend in soul music. . The rest are gay people, mostly black and Latino."
The author asserts that he's found nothing but support in the African-American community. "I'm on black radio all the time," he says. "I get invited to speak at historically black colleges like Tennessee State, South Carolina South Carolina, state of the SE United States. It is bordered by North Carolina (N), the Atlantic Ocean (SE), and Georgia (SW). Facts and Figures
Area, 31,055 sq mi (80,432 sq km). Pop. (2000) 4,012,012, a 15. State, Spelman. There's always some straight black male who gets up afterward and says, `Mr. Harris, I'm not gay, but I read your books.' More and more--and I really like this--I'm brought to campuses by the black student organization working with the lesbian and gay organization."
For Harris that alliance makes sense, although he knows it strikes many others as odd. "A lot of white people--it's like it makes them feel better to think black people could be more homophobic ho·mo·pho·bi·a
1. Fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men.
2. Behavior based on such a feeling.
[homo(sexual) + -phobia. than they are, but that's just not true," he says. "We're just different cultures. And for a lot of blacks, there's still resentment because of the way the gay and lesbian community equates their struggle with the black civil rights movement."
Right now, though, Harris is focusing on the good stuff. "My partner and I, we go to the movies, we go on a date once a week, we go to church, to the gym," he says. "We're close to family; we have great relationships with my nieces and nephews. I just bought my mother a house. That's the best part of my success--that I was able to do that for her."
He threw her a righteous housewarming party A housewarming party is a party held on the occasion of moving into a new residence. It is an occasion for the hosts to present their new home to their friends, and sometimes for friends to give gifts to furnish the new home. too. "Yeah, the neighbor lady shows up with baked apple pie--real apple pie apple pie
typical, wholesome American dessert. [Am. Culture: Flexner, 68]
See : America ," says Harris, laughing. "And the woman who owned the house before us wrote my mother a letter telling her about all the good memories in that house."
It was especially gratifying grat·i·fy
tr.v. grat·i·fied, grat·i·fy·ing, grat·i·fies
1. To please or satisfy: His achievement gratified his father. See Synonyms at please.
2. to be able to give his mother such a gift, says Harris--the only son in a single-parent family single-parent family Social medicine A family unit with a mother or father and unmarried children. See Father 'factor.', Latchkey children, Quality time, Supermom. Cf Extended family, Nuclear family, Two parent advantage. of five--because his mother is the reason he was able to go to college and see himself as able to succeed. "She's the most important woman in my life, " he says.
After helping his mother celebrate, Harris is preparing for the release of If This World Were Mine. It's going to involve a long, arduous tour and plenty of high-profile advertising; expectations at Doubleday are high.
But Harris's mind is already on his next project: a memoir he put off publishing last year. "I was too young," he says. "I always thought I wouldn't have love in my life, and I thought I was OK with that. But now..." He pauses. "Now that I'm older, the book has a much better ending."