"Say a Little Prayer" for the Family and Love Ones of E. Lynn Harris
(June 20, 1955- July 23 2009)
Yesterday afternoon, when I was in my car, after turning off my CD player, that I had been rocking all day and turning on the radio, I happen to catch the end of Michael Baisden's show, where he was sending out his love to a fellow author and inspiration, who had died. I think my fellow bloggers, can understand my shock, when I heard it was E. Lynn Harris at age 54. I'm not sure what he died of as of yet, none of the media outlets have disclosed or are not sure of what exactly he died from. I'm not sure it really matters, what he died from, the fact is he is no longer with us. I read in one report, that his assistant said he had been having declining health issues, for a while now. For some reason, I don't want to hear what those health issues may have been. If anyone can understand that. One report really got me, and it was a CNN online report. It had interviews from other fellow authors and friends of E. Lynn Harris. Some who had started selling their books the same time, he was trying to get his self-published first novel, "Invisible Life" out. He was a pioneer in his subject matter and he was a pioneer in the self publication of his early work. Michael Baisden mentioned, how E. Lynn Harris having to self-publish his early work, is what inspired him to do the same. Many stories relate to what I have read from other bloggers, as well as to myself. What it was like the first time, they read either "Invisible life" or any of E. Lynn Harris other books.
For me it was "If This World Was Mine," that was the book that started me on the E. Lynn Harris ride. This book came along right around the time I started to get into reading novels. Now I had read before this book, but around I want to say the last of middle school years, I really started to get into books, not for school or for a book report, but into books, just for entertainment. I remember I reading this book right after reading Eric Jerome Dickey's "Milk In My Coffee," which came after Terry McMillan's "A Day Late, and a Dollar Short". To this day E. Lynn Harris' character Basil Henderson, is by far one of my favorite literary characters, I have ever read. I just love this character to death. Anyway although I enjoyed Mr. Harris book, it didn't really resonate with me, along with his other books, until my high school years. His books and subject matter is where I started to feel at home, or a real connection with. I started to discover and realize certain things about myself through his work. I remember feeling like he was writing for me. I'm not sure when it went from me reading about a couple guys who happen to be in love or have sex or live double lives, to "I think that character is me!"...but it did. If those who don't know what his subject matter has been about, it was about homosexual love, and about Down Low situations and circumstances. I think he was the first real mainstream author to talk about it and and write about it. He wrote from a place of personal experience. For E. Lynn Harris writing "Invisible Life" changed him and helped him deal with his sexuality. He even said, "When I wrote 'Invisible Life,' it had to be the first book out of me -- it helped me to deal with my own sexuality. For me, my 20s and early 30s were spent just hiding and running, because there was no one to tell me that my life had value and the way I felt was okay."
In that CNN report, they talk about what hurt him the most, which was criticism for his work. During his career some criticized him, as being just a mediocre writer, who just happened to stumble on a winning formula. He would respond, "I am not a James Baldwin," although I do find it ironic how he won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence. One friend of his explained that "E. Lynn Harris wrote assessable literature for the masses". I personally don't think every writer has to be the most depth worthy or have the most intricate and over vernacular writing style, to make a point, to tell a story and to reach a reader. He was also criticized by the same community he wrote about, the black gay community. As some put it, for not accurately portraying them and the community and for some telling to much about them, I'm assuming those were the DL sub community, with that criticism. That apparently hurt Mr. Harris the most. It actually makes me feel even worse about myself, for trashing his last novel,"Basketball Jones" on this very blog, a few months ago. The same book he was on the road promoting and doing a book tour on, when he died in Los Angeles, on Thursday. However for me, I had other reasons for not liking his last book, than him telling too much about the DL community or not accurately portraying gay black men. I think for ever critic there is a cheerleader. To me on an average, his books helped me to discover and realise things about myself even more, I thank him for that.
Even after his death, I am finding things he said or wrote a inspiration or a connection to me. On one of those online report, this one coming from Black Voices Newswire; he said, "I think I've been a success because I write about things I'm passionate about and have something to say, and I think people relate to me because they know I relate to them." This had me really thinking. I am very passionate about what I write about on my blog and I have so much to say, but I don't always say it. I neglect writing about a lot of things, I think I should write about. I started my blog to talk and say the things I want to say, and yet I still don't say it all.
I really want that to change though. Anyway I want to say E. Lynn Harris We will miss you....I mean I will miss you. You just don't know what your work meant to me.