Everette Lynn Harris was a bestselling author of novels about African American men in gay and bisexual relationships. In his nine novels, which have sold more than three million copies, the gay characters are “on the down low,” or have not publicized their sexuality. Harris, a black man, endured years of abuse at the hands of his stepfather and for years denied his own homosexuality.
E. Lynn Harris was born on June 20, 1955, in Flint, Michigan, to Etta Mae Williams and James Jeter, who were unmarried. When Harris was three, he moved with his mother to Little Rock, Arkansas.
While living in Atlanta, Harris self-published his Invisible Life in 1991 and personally hand-delivered it to black-owned bookstores and beauty salons. In this coming-of-age tale, the book’s protagonist, Raymond Tyler, discovers his bisexuality and struggles to accept his true desires. Invisible Life caught the eye of a Doubleday sales representative, who bought a copy and sent it to the publishing house. Eventually, Harris made a presentation to company officials, who signed him to a three-book deal. Anchor Books, an imprint of Doubleday, published the book in trade paperback in 1994.
Among his other novels are 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), and I Say a Little Prayer (2006). His books tell ultimately optimistic stories that explore friendship, careers, romance, sexuality, and race. Harris wrote with an ear for black dialect, with descriptions, slang terms, and dialogue. Just As I Am, Any Way the Wind Blows, and A Love of My Own all won Novel of the Year designations by the Blackboard African American Bestsellers Inc. In 1997, If This World Were Mine won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence. His memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, which he wrote over a period of seven years, was published in 2003.
A musical based on Not a Day Goes By toured nationally in 2004. As a lecturer, Harris spoke at colleges across the country. He wrote articles for Sports Illustrated, Essence, The Washington Post Sunday Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Advocate.
Harris’s novel I Say a Little Prayer was released in May 2006. Written during his time teaching at the Univerity of Arkansas and time spent at his Houston, Texas, home, it debuted at number three on The New York Times Book Review’s bestseller list. He subsequently published Just Too Good to Be True (2008) and Basketball Jones (2009).
Harris died on July 24, 2009, in Los Angeles while on a business trip.