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E. Lynn Harris

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Information about E. Lynn Harris

Profile image of E. Lynn Harris

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Fiction Writer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Fisher Island, Florida
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
6/20/1955
Birth Location:
Flint, Michigan

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Fiction Writer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Fisher Island, Florida
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
6/20/1955
Birth Location:
Flint
See how E. Lynn Harris is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Best-selling author E. Lynn Harris was born Everette Lynn Harris on June 20, 1955 in Flint, Michigan. Harris grew up and attended elementary and high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and graduated with honors with a degree in journalism. While in college, Harris became his school’s first African American male cheerleader and editor of the school’s yearbook.

After earning his degree, Harris started his career as a computer sales executive. He spent the next thirteen years selling computers for IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and AT&T in Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. In 1991, Harris quit his computer sales career and decided to write his first novel, Invisible Life. He initially failed to find a publisher for it, so he used $25,000 of his own money to publish and distribute it. He sold his book mostly at Black-owned bookstores, beauty salons, and book clubs. The popularity of this book caused Anchor Books to publish and “officially” launch Invisible Life to the country. His second novel, Just As I Am, made Harris the first male writer to have a number-one hardcover book on the Blackboard list. Harris has written five novels that have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list, and six of them have sold more than one million copies. Three of his novels have been optioned by Hollywood production companies to be made into films.

Harris’ novels weave tales with candid portrayals of pain and passion about middle class professional African Americans in today’s society. His works broke down taboos about Black sexuality and the lifestyles of gay and bisexual men. He created realistic portrayals of individuals struggling to define their sexual identities.

Harris won numerous awards, prizes, and accolades during his writing career. In 1996, his novel, Just As I Am, was named Blackboard’s Novel of the Year. In 1997, If This World Were Mine was nominated for a NAACP Image Award and won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence. In 1999, the University of Arkansas honored Harris for outstanding professional achievement, and in 2000, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

Harris set up his own foundation, called the E. Lynn Harris Better Days Literary Foundation, whose mission is to provide new writers with guidance and assistance in getting their work published so that society is exposed to and enriched by the works of these new authors. In 2003, Harris was invited to be a visiting professor in the English Department at his alma mater, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Harris passed away on July 23, 2009 at the age of 54.

See how E. Lynn Harris is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of E. Lynn Harris interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - E. Lynn Harris's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - E. Lynn Harris describes his mother's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - E. Lynn Harris describes his biological father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - E. Lynn Harris recalls his childhood environs
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - E. Lynn Harris describes his family life
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - E. Lynn Harris recalls the sights, smells and sounds of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - E. Lynn Harris recalls his early involvement in the church
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - E. Lynn Harris remembers his stepfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - E. Lynn Harris describes his childhood interests
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - E. Lynn Harris remembers Little Rock Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - E. Lynn Harris remembers his elementary school teachers
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - E. Lynn Harris recounts his youth in Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - E. Lynn Harris recounts his difficult home life
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - E. Lynn Harris describes his relationships with two father figures
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - E. Lynn Harris recalls summers in Flint, Michigan during his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - E. Lynn Harris describes his experiences in the South during the 1950s-1960s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - E. Lynn Harris describes his behavior in junior high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - E. Lynn Harris describes his stepfather's estrangement
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - E. Lynn Harris recounts his early sexual encounters
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - E. Lynn Harris recalls efforts to assimilate in high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - E. Lynn Harris remembers a racist teacher, part 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - E. Lynn Harris remembers a racist teacher, part 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - E. Lynn Harris describes his commitment to leaving Arkansas
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - E. Lynn Harris recounts his high school experience
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - E. Lynn Harris discusses his choice of colleges
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - E. Lynn Harris discusses his love of college football
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - E. Lynn Harris recounts his college years
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - E. Lynn Harris discusses his involvement with college cheerleading
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - E. Lynn Harris reviews his life after college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - E. Lynn Harris recounts his experience in New York, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - E. Lynn Harris remembers an inspirational friend
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - E. Lynn Harris discusses the death of a friend
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - E. Lynn Harris describes his experiences living in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - E. Lynn Harris recalls a dark period in his life
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - E. Lynn Harris recalls the beginning of his writing career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - E. Lynn Harris tells the story of his first published novel
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - E. Lynn Harris discusses his first novel, 'Invisible Life'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - E. Lynn Harris considers his literary successes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - E. Lynn Harris reflects on his identity as a gay man
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - E. Lynn Harris discusses his second novel, 'Just As I Am'