E. Lynn Harris was born in Flint, Michigan and
raised, along with three sisters, in Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended the
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where he was the school's first black
yearbook editor, the first black male Razorbacks cheerleader, and the president
of his fraternity. He graduated with honors with a degree in journalism.
Harris sold computers for IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and AT&T for thirteen years while living in Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. He finally quit his sales job to write his first novel, Invisible Life, and, failing to find a publisher, he published it himself in 1991 and sold it mostly at black-owned bookstores, beauty salons, and book clubs before he was "discovered" by Anchor Books. Anchor published Invisible Life as a trade paperback in 1994, and thus his career as an author officially began.
Invisible Life was followed by Just As I Am (1994), And This Too Shall Pass (1996), If This World Were Mine (1997), Abide with Me (1999), Not A Day Goes By (2000), Any Way the Wind Blows (2001), A Love of My Own (2002), I Say A Little Prayer (2006) and Just Too Good To Be True (2008), all published by Doubleday. All ten of Harris's novels have hit the New York Times bestseller list, and they have also appeared on the bestseller lists of the Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. In 2003, Harris published his first work of nonfiction, a memoir entitled What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, which was also a New York Times bestseller. Today, there are more than four million copies of his books in print, and his latest, Basketball Jones, was released in January 2009.
Harris's writing has also appeared in Essence, Washington Post Sunday Magazine, and Sports Illustrated, as well as in the award-winning anthology Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America, Go The Way Your Blood Beats. His novella, "Money Can't Buy Me Love" was published in Got To Be Real: Four Original Love Stories. Freedom in This Village, a collection of short stories edited by Harris, was released in the fall of 2004. His short fiction appeared in Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writers (Harlem Moon), a 2002 collection he edited with writer Marita Golden.
Harris won numerous accolades and prizes for his work. Just As I Am was awarded the Novel of the Year Prize by the Blackboard African-American Bestsellers, Inc. If This World Were Mine was nominated for a NAACP Image Award and won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence. Abide with Me was also nominated for a NAACP Image Award. His anthology Freedom in this Village won the Lambda Literary Award in 2005. In 1999, the University of Arkansas honored Harris with a Citation of Distinguished Alumni for outstanding professional achievement, and in October 2000 he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. He was also named to Ebony's "Most Intriguing Blacks" list, Out Magazine's "Out 100" list, New York Magazine's "Gay Power 101" list, and Savoy's "100 Leaders and Heroes in Black America" list. Other honors have included the Sprague Todes Literary Award, the Harvey Milk Honorary Diploma, and The Silas Hunt Award for Outstanding Achievement from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Harris was a member of the Board of Directors of the Hurston/Wright Foundation and the Evidence Dance Company. He also founded the E. Lynn Harris Better Days Foundation, a nonprofit company that provides support to aspiring writers and artists.
A popular college lecturer, Harris divided his time between Atlanta, Georgia, and Fayetteville, Arkansas until his death in July 2009 at the age of 54.
This biography was last updated on 07/24/2009.
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A Discussion with E. Lynn Harris
Not a Day Goes By, zoomed to the top of the national bestseller
lists, and most notably debuted in the #2 slot on the New York Times
fiction list--a first for an African American male fiction writer. How does that
It's very humbling, and at the same time it's very rewarding because it shows that all the hard work of my editor, publisher, staff and myself has paid off. It's also a fantastic feeling to know that the fans rushed to the stores . . . and brought friends with them.
How did you decide to write a book about John Basil Henderson (a character who has appeared in all your novels--and is also a character your fans love to hate) and Yancey Harrington Braxton, the Broadway diva introduced in Abide with Me?
I wanted to do something different and my editor, the president of Doubleday, and I came up with the idea to do something special for the summer, a different kind of love story . . . something wicked. Basil and Yancy got together at the end of Abide with Me and I thought it would be fun to see what happened if they pursued their relationship.
Did you know from the start whether there would be a happy or sad ending to this love affair?
Yeah, I knew ...
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