Remembering E. Lynn Harris

E. Lynn Harris, pioneer of black gay literature, died suddenly on Thursday at the age of 54. Harris was the author of ten bestselling books, many of which chronicled experiences of black men as they reconciled their sexuality with the social norms of their community. And Harris was, himself, a resilient pioneer: when he couldn’t find a publisher for his first novel, Invisible Life, he published it himself, selling it out of the trunk of his car. When the book became wildly popular, Harris was able to quit his job as a computer salesman. And he passed on his good fortune to other authors: according to Terrance Dean, author of Hiding in Hip Hop, “It was reading E. Lynn’s books that made me unafraid to be myself as a gay black man.” In a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Harris’ friend, Karen E. Quinones Miller, remembers him as a selfless mentor. “He was the man who reached out to me when others in the literary world wanted nothing to do with another struggling writer trying to break into the business,” she writes. “He was the man who used his reputation to help make mine.”