Bestselling writer E. Lynn Harris, a
pioneer of black gay fiction, has died at the age of 54. He was in
the middle of a West Coast tour to promote his 11th novel, Basketball
Jones, when he passed away unexpectedly on Friday.
The openly gay African-American author
is best known for novels that address questions of identity and
sexuality among black men. Following the success of his
self-published novel Invisible Life, Harris signed a book deal
worth $8 million and went on to publish 11 novels including Just
As I Am, Too Good To Be True, Abide With Me, as
well as his 2004 memoir What Becomes of The Brokenhearted.
Harris' first 10 novels were all on the New York Times
Harris was the first person to identify
and write about the phenomenon known as the "down-low" in
black gay culture.
Alison Rich, Doubleday's executive
director of publicity, said in a statement: "We at Doubleday are
deeply shocked and saddened to learn of E. Lynn Harris' death at too
young an age. His pioneering novels and powerful memoir about the
black gay experience touched and inspired millions of lives, and he
was a gifted storyteller whose books brought delight and
encouragement to readers everywhere. Lynn was a warm and generous
person, beloved by friends, fans, and booksellers alike, and we mourn
Born Everette Lynn Harris in Flint,
Michigan, he was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, and most-recently
taught English at the University of Arkansas as a visiting professor.
His novel, Basketball Jones, was
published in January, while another book was due for release in
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