Born Everette Lynn Jeter in Flint, Michigan, Harris moved to Little Rock, Arkansas with his mother at the age of 3. Upon his mother’s marriage to Ben Harris, young Everette’s surname was changed to Harris. By the time he was 13 years old, his mother divorced his stepfather who had abused Harris for years. Harris also had homes in Houston, Texas, Atlanta, Georgia and Fayetteville, Arkansas. In his writings, Harris maintained a poignant motif, occasionally emotive, that incorporated vernacular and slang from popular culture.
Harris became the first black male cheerleader as well as the first black yearbook editor while attending the University of Arkansas. He was also his college’s chapter president of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. After graduation, he became a computer salesman with IBM, AT&T, and Hewlett-Packard for 13 years living in Dallas, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. In 1990, Harris attempted suicide during a dark phase of depression and heavy drinking but later found the will to live in his writing. Harris relieved himself of his salesman duties and quit in order to begin writing his first novel. Vanessa Ward Hines, “Bestselling author motivates students to find themselves, live passion” The South End (Detroit) April 2005, p. 1Harris was initially unable to land a book deal with a reputable publishing house for his first work, Invisible Life , so he self-published it through a vanity publisher and sold copies from his car trunk. Since then, he has signed onto Doubleday Publishing and ten of his novels have achieved New York Times bestseller status.
Alongside fiction, Harris had also penned a personal memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.
Harris died on July 23, 2009 while in Los Angeles for a business meeting. He was found unconscious at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, and was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was heart disease. That same day, Harris had fallen ill on the train to Los Angeles and blacked out but was fine after, according to his publicist Laura Gilmore.
As a tribute to Harris, upon the release of Mama Dearest , several friends and authors came together to perform a tribute tour in his honor. Eric Jerome Dickey, RM Johnson, Tracie Howard, Tina McElroy Ansa, Clarence Nero, and Laura Gilmore hosted the release event on September 22, 2009 at Outwrite Book in Atlanta. Other events where hosted on September 25, 2009 in New York City, Dallas, and other cities around the United States by authors such as Dr. Bertice Berry, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Victoria Christopher Murray, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Mary B. Morrison and more.
- Invisible Life (self published 1991, mass marketed 1994)
- Just As I Am (1995), winner of Blackboard’s Novel of the Year Award
- And This Too Shall Pass (1997)
- If This World Were Mine (1998), winner of James BaldwinAward for Literary Excellence
- Abide With Me (1999)
- Not A Day Goes By (2000)
- Money Can’t Buy Me Love (2000) (Short Story)
- From the Book Got to Be Real – 4 Original Love Stories by Eric Jerome Dickey, Marcus Major, E. Lynn Harris and Colin Channer
- Any Way the Wind Blows (2002), winner of Blackboard’s Novel of the Year Award* A Love Of My Own (2003), winner of Blackboard’s Novel of the Year Award
- What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted – A Memoir(2003)
- I Say a Little Prayer (2006)
- Just Too Good To Be True (2008)
- Basketball Jones (2009)
- Mama Dearest (2009) (Posthumously Released)
- In My Father’s House (2010) (Posthumously Released)
Harris’ first novel, Invisible Life finished in 1991, was a coming of age story dealing with then-taboo topics. Most important was that it openly questioned sexual identity and told the story of main character Raymond Tyler. Tyler, torn between his married male lover and girlfriend Nicole, is a New York attorney struggling with identifying as a bisexual black man. He ultimately settles into a gay life style, while much of the novel is dedicated to Tyler’s reflection on that choice.
Any Way the Wind Blows
Harris’ 2002 novel, Any Way the Wind Blows , is the sequel to his previous book, Not A Day Goes By. It follows the jilted Yancey Harrington as she pursues success and stardom in L.A, and her wayward bisexual ex-fiance Basil Henderson, who has left thoughts of matrimony behind in favour of singledom.
What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted: A Memoir
What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted: A Memoir is E. Lynn Harris’ autobiographical reflection. It concerns the rise of a small town boy to a successful writer; detailing Harris’ battle with depression and ‘coming out’ experience as a gay African American.
A Love of My Own
A Love of My Own is Harris’ 2003 novel, which won Blackboard’s ‘Novel of the Year Award’. It details a year in the lives of several characters living in New York. It is narrated alternately by Zola Norwood, editor of a Hip Hop magazine, and Raymond Tyler Jr., the magazine’s CEO. It deals with both the trials and tribulations of the characters’ love and work lives against the back drop of the cultural and political events of 2001 and 2002.
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