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Saturday, July 25, 2009

May his memory be a blessing: E. Lynn Harris

Novelist E. Lynn Harris has died suddenly, and too young.

Harris was one of the few writers whose new book I always had to read. Every time. Even when I couldn't afford to buy it in hardcover.

Here are three reasons he inspired me:

1. When he wrote his first, groundbreaking novel, publishing "wisdom" said no one wanted to read about black gay men. Since Harris couldn't get anyone to publish Invisible Life, he started selling it himself. Eventually, he sold millions.

2. I am neither African-American, nor male, nor bisexual. Yet Harris took me into the minds and hearts of those characters, and made me feel their emotions. Showing me something I could never experience in real life is one of the great gifts of fiction.

3. In some ways, I could relate to Harris's stories more than those of almost any white and/or lesbian writer. Faith and family are very important in the lives of many of his characters--as they are in mine.

We have lost a great storyteller.

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