E. Lynn Harris died Thursday night of a heart attack at 54 years old. He collapsed while on tour for his 11th novel, "Basketball Jones." It's so disheartening to hear this even though I hadn't read one of his books in years. (Unfortunately, I haven't read many books in years.) Anybody black, gay and lesbian --- or especially STRAIGHT, BLACK and FEMALE --- knows of E. Lynn's work. His books, generally about closeted black gay men, pretty much kicked the door open on the "DL phenomenon" (or "catastrophe" as I've often labeled it since so many people seemed to wear their fear and proposed right to secret lifes as a badge of honor).
I went to a couple of his readings and he always struck me as a warm and humble human being, as sweet as they come. He seemed to get so much pleasure out of writing and sharing his work with his audience. Primarily, straight black women. (I could completely dissect their actual interest or motives, but it really isn't that important to me anymore.) I was always happy to see E. Lynn show up on the New York Times Best Seller list. He completely changed the world when it came to black writers and the publishing world's view of the self-publishing independent industry. He did affect my work. I included an intro to issue# 11 of BGBF where a woman reflects on her own homphobic hypocrisy because of her husband's antics as an attempted gay basher. E. Lynn Harris does deserve some credit for making us a little more visible. I'm sorry to hear he's gone.