Writer E. Lynn Harris Dies at Age 54

Updated | 2:48 p.m. E. Lynn Harris, the best-selling author of novels that addressed the subject of gay black culture has died, his publicist told The Associated Press. He was 54.

According to his official biography at his Web site, Mr. Harris was born in Flint, Mich. and raised in Little Rock, Ark. At the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, he was the school’s first black male Razorbacks cheerleader and was a lifelong fan of the team. He sold computers for a living until he self-published his first novel, “Invisible Life,” in 1991; it was picked up by Anchor Books in 1994, spawning a prolific writing career spanning ten more novels, from “Just As I Am” in 1994, to “Basketball Jones,” published in January, as well as a 2004 memoir, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”

In a review of Mr. Harris’s 2006 novel “I Say a Little Prayer” in The New York Times Book Review, Troy Patterson wrote that Mr. Harris “has helped bring taboo topics — like closeted black men indulging their sexuality ‘on the down low’ — into mainstream conversation.” From his debut with “Invisible Life”, Mr. Patterson wrote that Mr. Harris offered a writing style that “was smoothly paced, and the prose occasionally opened up on Fitzgerald-lite moments of sparkling sentiment.”

In a statement, Alison Rich, the executive director of publicity for Doubleday, which published Mr. Harris’s novels, said: “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 his passing.”

A full obituary will follow at nytimes.com.

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~ by ARR on July 24, 2009.

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