Monday, July 27, 2009


E. Lynn Harris, the author who introduced millions of readers to the "invisible life" of black gay men, was a literary pioneer whose generosity was as huge as his courage, friends said Friday.

E. Lynn Harris touched fans with his courage and his kindness, friends say.

Harris, 54, died Thursday night while on a business trip to Los Angeles, California, said Laura Gilmore, his publicist.

Harris wrote a series of novels that exposed readers to characters rarely depicted in literature: black, affluent gay men who were masculine, complex and, sometimes, tormented.

Keith Boykin, an author and friend, said Harris encouraged the black community to talk openly about homosexuality.

"We have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy in the black community," Boykin said. "E. Lynn Harris encouraged people to ask and to tell."

In books like "Invisible Life," "A Love of My Own," and his New York Times best-selling memoir, "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," Harris virtually invented a new genre: books that depicted black gay men living double lives.

Though Harris wrote primarily about black gay men, some of his biggest fans were black women. His books became staples in black beauty salons, bookstores and book clubs.

"It was hard to go on a subway in places in New York or D.C. and not see some black woman reading an E. Lynn Harris novel," Boykin said.

Harris was an unlikely literary pioneer. He was a former IBM executive who decided to write about his life. He started off in 1991 selling books from the trunk of his car to African-American beauty salons and bookstores.

He eventually became one of the nation's most popular writers with an estimated 4 million of his books in print.
No cause of death has been reported as of yet.