Abide with Me (Invisible Life Series #3)

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At the end of Just as I Am, Raymond Tyler, Jr., was beginning a relationship with Trent, a fraternity brother from his college days, while Nicole had found love with Jared, Raymond's buddy from Atlanta. As Abide with Me opens, Raymond and Trent are settled in Seattle, where Trent's career as an architect has bloomed and Raymond's law practice is booming. All seems well. Then, late one night, Raymond gets a call from a United States Senator that threatens everything he's built. Raymond, facing a crisis of faith, ...
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Abide With Me: A Novel

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Overview

At the end of Just as I Am, Raymond Tyler, Jr., was beginning a relationship with Trent, a fraternity brother from his college days, while Nicole had found love with Jared, Raymond's buddy from Atlanta. As Abide with Me opens, Raymond and Trent are settled in Seattle, where Trent's career as an architect has bloomed and Raymond's law practice is booming. All seems well. Then, late one night, Raymond gets a call from a United States Senator that threatens everything he's built. Raymond, facing a crisis of faith, travels to New York hoping for the support of his best friend, Jared, who's moved North after five years in Atlanta. His wife, Nicole, is performing in a revival of Dreamgirls, her lifelong fantasy at last coming true. Nicole is thrilled to return to the stage, but when things start to go wrong, her young and beautiful understudy, Yancey Harrington Braxton, steps into the spotlight a little too smoothly. And Nicole, far from achieving her dream, is suddenly forced to reevaluate her life and her marriage.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In his four previous novels, E. Lynn Harris has taken on the controversial issues of race and class, bisexuality, and AIDS within the African-American community, acquiring both an enthusiastic readership and critical acclaim for his efforts. Now, in the eagerly awaited conclusion to his Invisible Life trilogy, Harris returns to the unforgettable characters of Invisible Life and Just as I Am for a new round of professional challenges and personal heartbreaks.

Abide with Me finds Raymond Tyler and his lover, Trent, happily settled in Seattle, their respective legal and architectural careers in full swing. But when Ray is nominated for a federal judgeship, disturbing secrets from Trent's past resurface that threaten their relationship. Meanwhile, Nicole and Jared have moved from Atlanta to New York City, where Nicole is on the verge of fulfilling her lifelong fantasy of performing on Broadway. But she is forced to reevaluate her own career when an overzealous understudy jeopardizes her return to the stage. Here, too, is the sexy and unpredictable John Basil Henderson, whose successful job as an ESPN sports commentator cannot conceal his fundamental loneliness.

With depth and sensitivity, further revealing the intricate and intimate relationships of the beloved cast of this trio of novels, Abide with Me is sure to remain with the reader long after the series has come to a close.

Entertainment Weekly
...[B]reezy, bighearted entertainment.
Advocate
Harris has woven a truly complex and realistic fabric within which his characters come to self-actualization through forgiveness and the enduring human spirit.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the conclusion of his trilogy that began with the novels Invisible Life and Just As I Am, Harris continues to demonstrate his inarguable skills as a master storyteller. He recounts the triumphs and travails of Raymond Winston Tyler Jr., a bisexual African-American attorney, whose lovers, friends and family both enrich and ensnarl his life. Raymond, at 37, has just been nominated for a federal judgeship. His parents are elated. His boyfriend is proud. But the necessary background checks may raise some squeamish issues surrounding his sexuality. The events unfold like a serial soap opera, a series of artfully constructed vignettes that always convey a strong sense of setting and are driven by emotionally charged dialogue. It's these qualities that make Harris's work so nimble as spoken audio: his writing comes across as almost scripted. His characters, such as the sexually conflicted pro football star John "Basil" Henderson (who is portrayed through a series of sessions with his therapist), are also highly appealing. Harris clearly knows how to work the heartstrings of his audience. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover. (Mar.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Entertainment Weekly
...[B]reezy, bighearted entertainment.
The Advocate
Harris has woven a truly complex and realistic fabric within which his characters come to self-actualization through forgiveness and the enduring human spirit.
Kate Clinton
The book stands on its own, and I can't wait to read the first two.
The Progressive
Henry

Harris is a great storyteller who knows how to tug on the heartstrings of with wit and sensitivity. He gives just as much insight into the psyche of women as he does men. When confronted with a mixture of both—as with a transvestite who apears in the book—he shows remarkable compassion. He has a unique perspective that avoids judgment. And, while he concludes his Invisible Life trilogy with this book, there's a hint that more may come.

Harris handles the story well until the end...the author seems unable to find a creative way to tie up loose ends and conclude the book.


USA Today
Kirkus Reviews
The lives of five thirtyish African-Americans are updated in this final installment of a trilogy (Invisible Life, 1992; Just As I Am, 1994) that doesn't stray from the soap-opera conventions that also govern the first two. The cast will be familiar to readers of the series: Raymond, Trent, Nicole, Jared, and Basil are all educated, successful, fairly well-off professionals who eat sumptuous meals and spend time with expensive therapists—a deft by-the-numbers strategy that excuses Harris from having to develop their characters himself. Ray and his old frat brother Trent live happily in their gorgeous Seattle home; Nicole and Jared, still childless in New York, enjoy immaculate marital bliss; Basil, also a Big Apple denizen, is a handsome ESPN sports commentator. All the men have excellent pectorals and exquisite butts; all the women are shapely and beautiful. Not that they don't have problems.


When Ray is nominated for a federal judgeship, his love for Trent is challenged by an FBI background check that reveals Trent's criminal record. Nicole wins a part in the show Dreamgirls, but her success is threatened by a scheming understudy. Basil internally rages against his uncle while nonviolently abusing a variety of men and women. Still, in the end anyone who is driven by hatred is thwarted; anyone who embraces love and forgiveness prevails; and most reconciliations are sealed by hot tumbles in the bedroom. Only friendless loner Basil fails to right himself, though the close offers some hope—presumably for another installment. Harris is a writer with a passable talent for pacing and dialogue, but his characters fail to evolve and their changes of heart are wholly predictable. More of the same from an unadventurous conception.

From the Publisher
"Harris populates his novel with marvelously written, complex characters who engage readers on many levels."  --Orlando Sentinel

"[E. Lynn Harris] rounds out his blockbuster series with this inventive book...filled with sensuality, deception, friendship and love."  --Ebony

"What's got audiences hooked: Harris's unique spin on the everfascinating topics of identity, class, intimacy, sexuality, and friendship."  --Vibe

"Harris's books are hot, in more ways than one."  -The Philadelphia Enquirer

"Breezy, bighearted entertainment."  -Entertainment Weekly

"Harris's talent as a writer has increased with each of his books.  His stories have become the toast of bookstores, reading groups, men, women, and gay and straight people."  -Atlanta Journal and Constitution

"With a signature style that has thrilled and satisfied millions of readers, E. Lynn Harris again deftly explores the intertwined topics of sexuality, friendship and family."  -Seattle Gay News

"This book grabs you from the first page and nags at you until you finish reading it.  You will go on an emotional roller-coaster ride."  -Spokesman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553525526
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/1999
  • Series: Invisible Life Series , #3
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged, 4 cassettes, 6 hrs.
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

E. Lynn Harris's next novel, Not a Day Goes By, will be published in Summer 2000 by Doubleday.  He is the author of four other highly acclaimed novels, all available from Anchor.  Mr. Harris lives in Chicago and New York.

Biography

Jackie Collins has kept the literary romance world well stocked with claws-out, upper-crust melodramas. But until E. Lynn Harris came along, the genre lacked a little ... diversity. Harris brought diversity and then some, with his now-trademark "buppie" characters, questions about sexuality, and hopelessly (but deliciously) complicated relationships.

Written from both male and female points of view and featuring recurring characters, Harris's books can be read as a veritable soap opera. The cycle begins with Invisible Life, the story of Raymond Winston Tyler Jr. -- a character Harris has acknowledged bears many similarities to himself. Raymond grapples with his sexuality, developing a relationship with a man he meets in law school and jeopardizing one with his girlfriend. His coming-of-age continues over the next two novels in the trilogy, Just As I Am and Abide with Me, as he struggles with losses of friends to AIDS, the ending of a relationship with an actress, and the beginning of a new one with a man.

Another recurring Harris character, Basil Henderson, is the man readers love to hate. An arrogant, badass football player-turned-sports agent, Basil beds both women and men until he meets up with his female (and later, male) counterparts. His story is mainly told in Not a Day Goes By and Any Way the Wind Blows.

It's true that in the Basil Henderson books, Harris is taking a saucy cue or two from his female romance novel predecessors; but the author claims to be more heavily influenced by writers such as Maya Angelou and Terry McMillan, and it would be misleading to pigeonhole his books as purely guilty pleasures. Particularly in his earlier books, Harris brought to a mainstream readership the issues that many gay and bisexual men face, and added a new voice to the portrayal of black, upwardly mobile characters. And in books such as If This World Were Mine and the young adult novel Diaries of a Light-Skinned Colored Boy, he has addressed issues of race and self-realization.

Given his themes, it may seem surprising that the majority of Harris's readers are straight women; but it's also a testament to his ability to write about love and self-discovery with humor, not to mention a little steaminess.

Good To Know

Harris worked as a salesman for IBM, and earned a following by self-publishing Invisible Life before getting a book deal.

He was tapped to write the screenplay for an update of the 1976 movie Sparkle, to be produced by Whitney Houston's production company. But with the death of Aaliyah, who was attached to star, the project's future is uncertain.

He lived most of his adult life in Chicago, Illinois.

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    1. Hometown:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 20, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Flint, Michigan
    1. Date of Death:
      July 23, 2009
    2. Place of Death:
      Los Angeles, California

Read an Excerpt

Summer came, tucked behind a flawless spring. Raymond loved perfection, but he did not know that with perfection, sorrow would soon follow. It started with a late evening phone call. Raymond Winston Tyler and Trent Michael Walters had retired to their large, loft-style bedroom after an uneventful Friday. The two were trying to decide if they should watch the local news or one of the three videos they had rented for the weekend. Raymond answered the phone on the nightstand after a couple of rings. He started to let the answering machine pick up, but the ring sounded unusually urgent and important. Maybe it was his younger brother, Kirby, or his best buddy, Jared.

After about ten minutes of "Yes... Yes... I can't believe this," Raymond walked over toward the large bay window. As he held the portable phone to his ear Raymond gazed at a burst of orange and blue lightning slice through the clouds as the sky opened up and sheets of rain began to fall. It was both beautiful and frightening.

Trent realized this call was important and went downstairs to the kitchen. A few minutes later he returned with a bowl of microwave popcorn, a box of peanut M&M's, and two bottles of water, just as Raymond was hanging up the phone with a stunned look on his face.

"Is everything all right?" Trent asked with concern in his voice.

"You're not going to believe this," Raymond said as he rubbed his forehead.

"What?"

"That was the chief of staff for Senator Patricia Murray's office," Raymond said.

"The U.S. senator? And?" Trent quizzed.

"I've been nominated for a federal judgeship," Raymond blushed. "Get the fuck out! That's great," Trent said as he hugged his broad-shouldered partner.

"I still don't believe this," Raymond said as his lips parted into a huge smile.

"Why not? I've always known you're the best lawyer in the world," Trent said proudly.

"Do you realize the next step would be the Supreme Court? What is this ... I'm getting ahead of myself. Supreme Court, my ass! My pops isn't going to believe this," Raymond rattled off.

"Call him," Trent urged.

Raymond looked at the digital clock on the phone and realized it was past midnight in Birmingham, Alabama. But Raymond wanted to share the news with his parents.

"Do you think it's too late?"

"Raymond, how often does someone get nominated for the federal bench?"

Trent asked.

"You're right," Raymond said as he grabbed the phone and dialed his parents' number. After three rings Raymond started to hang up when he suddenly heard his mother's sleepy voice. A voice more familiar to him than any sound he'd ever heard.

"Ma," Raymond said.

"Ray? Is everything all right?" she asked.

"Everything is fine. I'm sorry to call so late. Where's Pops?"

"He's right here. You want to talk with him?"

"Yeah, but I want you to hear this too. Put me on the speakerphone." Raymond knew his father hated the speakerphone, but he heard a click and then his mother's voice suddenly sounding far-off. "Ray Jr.? Are you all right?" Raymond heard his father ask.

"I'm fine," Raymond assured him.

"Then this better be good. Do you know how late it is?" "Yeah, but I thought you'd like to talk with the future federal judge from the Western District Court of Washington," Raymond said. He liked the sound of his possible new title.

"What!" Raymond heard his father exclaim. Raymond could hear his mother in the background singing, "My baby ...my baby going to be a judge." She sounded like the mother in the movie The Nutty Professor singing "Hercules, Hercules."

Raymond heard some clicking in the phone and then he could hear his father's voice more clearly. Raymond Sr. had turned off the speakerphone. "Is Ma all right?"

"She's fine. When did all this happen? Why is this the first I've heard of this?"

"I didn't know I was even being considered. I knew there were some openings, but everybody in my office thought they were going to pick an Asian-American or this lawyer Charles Pope. I'm still in shock," Raymond said. "I guess we can thank the Simpson trial and my taking your advice about helping out Norm Rice in his race for governor." "Did Norm have something to do with this?" Raymond Sr. asked. "I have no idea," Raymond answered. "I got the call from Senator Murray's office. Her chief of staff said they had been trying to reach me all evening. But I guess we should all calm down because I haven't been put on the bench yet. There is the confirmation process," he warned. "Don't worry about that. You'll get it. I know they need some local color on that bench."

"I hope you're right, Pops. I hope you're right."

After hanging up the phone, Raymond sat on the edge of the bed silently, listening to the rain and thinking about how his life was getting ready to change. Again.

During the Simpson trial Raymond had served as a talking head for the local NBC affiliate and had become something of a local celebrity, partly because he never seemed to take sides and also because Raymond was a very good-looking man. The station had been swamped with calls, faxes, and letters from women wanting to know Raymond's marital status. Raymond and Trent would spend some evenings reading some of the offers from viewers. Ray had his secretary send each viewer a thank-you note stating, Mr. Tyler is very happy in his personal life. When the station offered Raymond a permanent position, he politely declined.

His father was a retired family court judge and state senator who had always dreamed his son would follow in his political footsteps, and had suggested Raymond parlay his newfound celebrity into political prominence. It had been years since his father had encouraged him to pursue politics.

His mother just wanted him to be happy.

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Interviews & Essays

On Wednesday, March 17th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed E. Lynn Harris to discuss ABIDE WITH ME.


Moderator: Welcome, E. Lynn Harris! Thank you for taking the time to join us online this evening to discuss ABIDE WITH ME. How are you doing tonight?

E Lynn Harris: I am doing great.


Wanda from New York City: Can somebody pick this book up and start reading, or would they be lost? Also, which book do you recommend a new E. Lynn Harris fan start with?

E Lynn Harris: This novel does stand alone even though it is the end of a trilogy, but if you are to start out of sequence I would recommend IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE.


Thumper from African-American Literature Bookclub: Hello. I love your books. I do have a question about Basil. My friends and I have noticed that Basil is in all of your books. At first, we couldn't stand him, but our opinion of him changed by the end of IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE. Our opinion went from, "I can't stand him" to "He's half-way human after all." Will Basil ever be the main feature in a novel of his own?

E Lynn Harris: The next novel.


pac87@aol.com from xx: How close to Raymond Tyler do you think E. Lynn Harris is, and vice versa?

E Lynn Harris: Well, in the first two books I depended on him a lot in terms of telling me what to do and telling me to use a lot of my own life. But with this novel I told it from a third-person point of view because I think Raymond, like E. Lynn, will tell readers what they want to know. By telling it from the third person I had some separation, therefore I told it from that point of view.


Beverly from New Jersey: I am an avid reader and have enjoyed your books. As a mother who tries to watch expenses I tend to borrow books from the library rather than buying. Am I hurting the industry for our wonderful black authors out there trying to make it? Thanks.

E Lynn Harris: Of course, we wish that people would purchase the books, not only out of selfish reasons but also because by owning books you enjoy one of the treasures in life. I have an extensive library of fiction and nonfiction. I love buying books, and even when things were tight it was still one of my joys. We are glad you are reading, but we also wish you had a personal library like a lot of the other fans.


Sheila from Spring Valley, NY: How has your writing style changed from your very first book to the very last book you've written? And what authors would you say you've most shadowed?

E Lynn Harris: Good question. I am a little bit more secure in my writing now. I am more secure in my storytelling style. I really thought my first novel was a fluke, but my editors and writing experts told me to hold on to my unique voice, and even though I wanted each succeeding novel to be technically different, I was told to keep my voice. I don't really shadow any writer, but I guess my style is very similar to Terry McMillan's -- we tell stories as if we were telling the story one-on-one.


Reginald from Home: Will there be any movies made from your books? A miniseries, perhaps?

E Lynn Harris: INVISIBLE LIFE and JUST AS I AM are both in preproduction right now, and INVISIBLE LIFE will be an off-Broadway play.


Crystal from Reston, VA: Do you base many of your recurring characters on any of your friends and acquaintances? Are Peaches, John, Raymond taken from E. Lynn Harris's life?

E Lynn Harris: Most of my characters come from characters that I meet very briefly; then I imagine how they would be. I base these characters on one or two meetings -- then my imagination takes over.


Monique from Fayetteville, AR: I read somewhere that you are a big University of Arkansas fan. Is that true? What do you think of Nolan's past year? Also, who do you like in the Final Four? Thanks! I can't wait to read ABIDE WITH ME....

E Lynn Harris: I was a Razorback cheerleader, and I just got back from the SEC tournament. I live and breathe the Hogs, and Nolan had a good year, but I would have liked to see us go farther in the tournament. And I am saying Kentucky and Duke in the finals.


Paul from Pcrichton@yahoo.com: What advice would you give to aspiring authors? I know you had a rather nontraditional route to getting published....

E Lynn Harris: Stop calling yourself "aspiring" -- it is just "writer." I did have a nontraditional route in that I self-published my first novel, which a lot of people say is a kiss of death, but it turned out to be a godsend for me.


Timmothy McCann from Florida: I did not read your first two books of the trilogy, but I am reading ABIDE WITH ME, and so far it is incredible. You have a way of writing that makes it feel as if you are actually listening to a conversation. What do you do to make your dialogue seem so realistic?

E Lynn Harris: I listen to the ear -- when I am writing I can actually hear the voices. As a writer you just start to hear the voices -- people walking down the street and conversations.


Yolanda from Shreveport, LA: Mr. Harris, I am so excited to have this opportunity! What does E. Lynn Harris read when he's not writing? Although there might be a rather long list, what about someone at present? I like to see who authors admire.

E Lynn Harris: THE HARRIS MEN by R. M. Johnson -- it is not out yet. WAITING IN VAIN by Colin Channer. STIGMATA by Phyllis Perry.


Tyra Russell from Mobile, AL: I love your books, they seem so true-to-life. My question is, What exactly is the Better Days Foundation?

E Lynn Harris: Better Days Foundation is an organization to help emerging writers. I am going to do this by grant, and I also want to bring authors to cities like Mobile -- current African-American writers who don't get to visit nonreading cities. I want to bring readers and writers closer together for dialogue. The name came from the idea that when writers start out it is so hard for them, and I want people to know there are better days ahead. You can support Better Days by buying hardcover copies of INVISIBLE LIFE -- the proceeds go to the foundation.


Shakira from Shak@aol.com: Do you think the city of Atlanta is still the "hot" place for young African-American professionals that it was a couple years ago? Do you still live in Atlanta?

E Lynn Harris: I think Atlanta definitely is, but I live in Chicago now, and I still have family in Atlanta -- it is a great place for young black professionals to start.


Hilly from New Orleans, LA: Who are those people on the jacket? Are they supposed to be Raymond, John, and Trent? Also, don't you think it is sometimes better for the reader to come up with an image in their heads, forcing them to use their imagination?

E Lynn Harris: Those are just people. Good point: They can be whoever you want them to be. I just want handsome men and women on the cover of my book.


Patrice from Sadie's Corner: Hello, E. Lynn Harris. What does the E. stand for? Also, I would like to know if you will miss this cast of characters now that the series has ended. Will you?

E Lynn Harris: The E. will be revealed in a memoir, and yes, I will miss them; it is kind of sad letting them go but they are gone.


Jeanette from Philadelphia, PA: I am curious to know a little bit about how you come up with your characters and stories? For instance, did you know what ABIDE WITH ME was going to be about even before you started writing, or do you find your writing more just kind of takes off on it's own?

E Lynn Harris: The writing takes off on its own. I usually start with the names and then take it where the characters lead me. Since I knew these characters I knew their background, but I didn't know what was happening with them now.


Nicki Hand from Greenville, SC: Of all the character you have created, which is your favorite?

E Lynn Harris: I have several that I like -- Raymond, and even though he is complex I love Basil. I love Nicole, and even though I don't like her I loved creating the character of Yancey in the new novel.


Fancy from Florida: I believe Terry McMillan also self-published her first book, and that also turned out terrific. Maybe that's the way to go when other people don't have the confidence you have in yourself. Comment, please.

E Lynn Harris: You have to have confidence in yourself, but Terry's first book was published by a major publisher. But she went out on her own to promote her book. I learned from Terry that promotion is very important.


Steve from Bellingham, WA: What, to E. Lynn Harris, are the most important elements to good fiction?

E Lynn Harris: Great characters, fast-moving plot, and humor.


Neena from Columbia, SC: What is your favorite part of being a successful, well-read author? Do you have a favorite part?

E Lynn Harris: The way people respond to you; it is really heartwarming.


Tommy from Virginia Beach, VA: Will you ever make it to Virginia for a book signing?

E Lynn Harris: Actually, it just missed being on the tour. I am getting an award in Richmond this Saturday for my contributions to African-American writers, though I will not be able to accept it because I will be at a book signing in Fayetteville. I have recently spoken at Virginia Tech, and I did signings at Hampton and Richmond.


Jessie from Chicago, IL: Hello, E. Lynn Harris. I read on the back of the book that you are writing a memoir. When can we expect to see it at barnesandnoble.com? Are you finding it more difficult to write than a novel?

E Lynn Harris: Yeah, it is more difficult. Right now it is due in August 2000. I keep rewriting it, trying to figure out what to tell and what not to tell. I've had a very interesting life.


ML from St. Louis, MO: First you made all your readers hate Basil, and then in your last novel, in so many words, you explained why Basil is the way he is by letting the readers see what kind of family life Basil had. In what direction will you take Basil in your next novel? Kyle was one of my favorite characters. I know you can't bring Kyle back, but will you ever bring Peaches or any of his family members back?

E Lynn Harris: Peaches is in the new novel, and I am learning Basil as I write him, and as I learn more about him as a character I hope readers will become more accepting of him. But it still doesn't explain or excuse some of his behavior.


Elke from New York: I know it's early, but what are your plans for New Year's Eve, 1999? Have you made any plans to end the '90s with?

E Lynn Harris: I want to be writing in my new home. I am staying off the road.


Donna from Atlanta, GA: Are you touring for this book? Where?

E Lynn Harris: Yeah, I will be in Atlanta the last week of the tour. Check my web site -- www.elynnharris.com -- to get more specifics.


Megan from New York City: If the Y2K bug wreaks its havoc, what books do you think you'd take along to read by the light of your home generator?

E Lynn Harris: I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS by Maya Angelou, GIOVANNI'S ROOM by James Baldwin, and INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison.


Eric from St. Petersburg, FL: Can you give us a preview of your new book in context of the characters being straight, gay, etc.

E Lynn Harris: A combination of both. I always try to write novels indicative of the world I live in, which includes gay/straight, black/white -- that is what I love about my world: It includes a little bit about everybody.


Lonnie from Boston, MA: As an African-American writer, how difficult did you find it to break out of that classification to be just a writer? I love your books.

E Lynn Harris: Unfortunately, Lonnie, we live in a world where people are more comfortable with labels then individuals. I have gone through two categories, as I was once categorized as a gay writer and as a black writer. At some point in my career I hope I will be just seen as a writer. I am moving up, I guess.


Ed from New Jersey: We need more specifics. Who's working on the movie version of INVISIBLE LIFE? When will it be out, etc. We're big fans!

E Lynn Harris: It is still under wraps. Please be patient. But it is in good hands.


Yolanda from Shreveport, LA: Mr. Harris, it's interesting to hear that some cities are, as you called it, "nonreading cities." Is that why we seem to never have any notable black authors in my area? By chance, are you coming anywhere near Shreveport?

E Lynn Harris: I just got a call from a store in New Orleans that helped me out when I just started, and they just opened a store in Shreveport, and even though they didn't make the tour, I will go out on my own. And when I say nonreading cities, it means cities that don't get good crowds, not cities where people don't read. I think they ignore these cities unjustly. On this tour I am doing Savannah because they said it would be an event, not just a book signing. I try to encourage my publisher to send me to nontraditional cities.


LJC from Florida: It was mentioned to myself and a few others that you, along with some other African Americans, will be doing a cruise in the near future. Can you give a little information on the matter?

E Lynn Harris: I don't know the dates, but I am doing it. I am not doing the whole tour, but I am doing part of it, and I am looking forward to it.


Moderator: We've enjoyed hosting you this evening, E. Lynn Harris, and hope you'll come back and let us all know what the E. stands for! Do you have any parting words for your online fans?

E Lynn Harris: I am most appreciative to my fan base. You guys have made me a literary superstar by telling your mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, boyfriends, and girlfriends about my novels. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart, and I hope that you will leave the session and call a friend to tell them that the book is in stores, online, it is everywhere. I didn't depend on the critics, I depend on you, and I am thankful.


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Reading Group Guide

The Invisible Life Trilogy

In three linked novels—Invisible Life, Just As I Am, and Abide With Me—E. Lynn Harris opens the door to a world rarely depicted in popular literature, the gay and bisexual black community. Written with sensitivity and sass, the novels have all appeared on the Blackboard bestseller list and have won enthusiastic acclaim from critics and a broad range of readers. The questions, discussion topics, and suggested reading list that follow are designed to enhance your reading group's discussion of the books and the insights they offer into the lives of men and women, gay and straight, as they face such universal problems as finding and keeping love, making the right career choices, and dealing with sometimes difficult parents, co-workers, and friends.

At the center of the Invisible Life trilogy is Raymond Tyler, a man struggling to do the right thing without betraying his past or sacrificing his dreams. The son of a successful lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama, Raymond always assumed he would follow in his father's footsteps. His life takes an unexpected turn, however, when he finds himself attracted to a handsome fraternity brother at college. Their carefully cloaked relationship—at once confusing, exhilarating, and frightening—marks the first step in Raymond's journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance. It is a journey that takes him from the tradition-bound South to the uninhibited world of gay Manhattan, to a thriving Seattle, where his legal career and his love-life seem destined for lasting success. Along the way, Raymond encounters a rich and diverse array of people, includingthe flamboyant, openly gay Kyle; the beautiful, loving Nicole, an aspiring actress; and Basil, a dashing and dangerous football player. Their stories join with Raymond's in a fast-paced chronicle that proves that love, friendship, and sexual desire frequently defy conventional expectations and explanations.

Harris's novels not only recount the changes and choices the individual characters confront, they evoke in telling detail the society in which those choices are made. From the importance of church and family to the consequences of
biases based on skin color, sexual orientation, and gender, Harris uncovers the lies that bind and the issues that divide the African American community today.

For discussion: Abide with Me:

1. What does Basil hope to prove by stripping in front of his therapist [p.16]? Why does he brag about leaving his date sitting in a restaurant? How are these two acts related? Are Basil's opinions about women and sex unusual or warped [pp. 30-31]? Do other men feel the same way, even if they hesitate to talk about it as openly as Basil does? Do you agree or disagree with Basil when he says, "I understand the power of sex. And once you understand something completely, you can control it" [p. 32]?

2. What techniques does Yancey use to ingratiate herself with Nicole? Is Nicole naive in accepting Yancey's friendship so readily? Yancey declares that after Albert, her high-school boyfriend, betrayed her "Every brother I meet is paying for what Albert did" [p. 54]. Do you think that Albert's marriage to a white woman made the situation more painful for Yancey than it would have been had he chosen a black wife? How do her opinions of men compare to Basil's views of women?

3. Trent is concerned that he won't get an assignment he wants because the project leader is a black woman. Are his fears understandable? Why does he say "you know how we can sometimes be our worst critics" [p. 63]? Are there examples of this tendency in the book? Have you encountered situations in which blacks are overly critical of other blacks? Do other groups exhibit the same behavior? Why do you think this happens?

4. Raymond and Trent briefly discuss getting married. Do you think that gay marriages should be legal? Why or why not?

5. After they meet an old friend of Nicole's at a restaurant, Nicole and Yancey talk about the way women compete with one another [p. 84]. How do their reactions to the "bad seeds" they've encountered differ? Is Nicole too forgiving of the actress the rest of the cast called "Evilene"? Was Yancey's "trick" for defeating her rival justifiable or unethical? How important is it for black women to stick together, particularly when it might entail sacrificing their own goals?

6. The NAACP withdraws its support of Raymond's nomination to back a candidate who "understands the needs of our community, especially on issues regarding the survival of the African-American family" [p. 95]. Is a gay candidate like Raymond incapable of understanding and supporting the basic values of the community? Can his partnership with Trent be defined as a "family"?

7. In what ways does Raymond Sr.'s objection to Kirby's involvement with an Asian woman parallel his discomfort with Raymond and Trent's relationship? Do members of minority groups have a moral obligation to date and/or marry within the group? Do interracial or interreligious marriages necessarily undermine individual cultures?

8. Why is Raymond so reluctant to confront Trent when he learns of his arrest? By betraying his promise to Trent to be open and honest, is Raymond betraying himself as well? What is the significance of the fight he has with his father about the situation? Is his father only concerned with Raymond's political future? Why does Raymond Sr. say "Stop letting people fuck you over, especially black folks"[p. 161]? What does this indicate about his own biases and beliefs?

9. When Raymond and Trent finally discuss Trent's infidelities, whose side are you on? Does Trent take their relationship too casually or is Raymond demanding a level of perfection that is impossible to achieve? Are the conflicts between Nicole and Jared more clear cut [pp. 284-285]? Do they handle them better than Raymond and Trent? Why is Nicole so ambivalent about starting a family? In addition to her reluctance to give up her career, what other factors contribute to her hesitations?

10. When she tells Raymond about his father's affair early in their marriage, Raymond's mother says "People sometimes do hurtful things just to get the other person's attention" [p. 291]. How does this relate to the events in the book? Are Basil's and Yancey's schemes, for example, mean-spirited and evil? Or are they desperate attempts to generate the attention and love that is missing from their lives?

For discussion of the Invisible Life Trilogy:

1. The title Harris chose for his first book—and eventually for the entire trilogy—echoes Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, a seminal work in African-American literature. How does the world Ellison describes compare to Harris's description
of the African-American community today? Are the protagonists similar in any way? Does "Invisible Life" only refer to the lives of the gay and bisexual men, or does it encompass aspects of the women's lives as well?

2. Discuss the views of homosexuality you have encountered in your own life. Are most people more willing to accept racial and religious differences than sexual differences? Do gay black men and women suffer greater doubts and more guilt than gay whites? Why or why not? What cultural factors influence the way people feel and talk about sexuality? Did the novels change your own feelings about the gay community?

3. The characters' relationships with their parents is an important theme in the trilogy. What impact does her mother's criticism have on the choices Nicole makes and her image of herself? Is Basil's hostility toward women a result of being raised by his father? Do you think his father genuinely loved him? Why didn't his father succeed in teaching Basil "to be a man and to try and do what's right"? Is Peaches a believable character or is Harris's portrait of her too idealistic? Are you more sympathetic to Yancey when you find out how her mother treated her as a child?

4. Discuss the differences between the views on race, religion, and gender expressed by the two generations. How do they reflect the society in which each generation grew up? Do you think Americans are becoming more tolerant or that age-old prejudices still thrive?

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2009

    Good Read

    Another good book in the trilogy, but not my favorite. Like some of Harris' other books, I like it when he writes from each character's point of view so we know what they are thinking. But like his other novels, it was hard to put this book down!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2006

    Could Have Been Much Better

    I would say this is not some Harris best pieces, but it kept me wanting to read all the way to the end. I was pretty up set that Yancy really didnt get what she deserve. So full of drama and passion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2003

    A must read book for all taste

    Abide with me had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I couldn't go anywhere without it. I'd reccomend this book to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2002

    Happy??????

    If you are happy with who you are don't be threatened by people who are not happy with themselves. Be all you can or continue to be all that you are in spite of....

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2002

    Another Great Book!

    I loved reading about Raymond Tyler and his lover, Trent, and their lives in Seattle. Terrifically written. Another hit!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2001

    YOU CAN'T STOP READING

    This book is the bomb. You need to read it ASAP. When you start reading Abide With Me you aren't going to be able to stop. It seems so real. You feel like you are there with the characters

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2001

    Terrific Ending to the Trilogy

    I loved this book. I think it was a wonderful ending to a intriguing series. I can't recommend this book enough.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2001

    E. Lynn Harris Tips the Scale

    Abide with me was an excellent ending to the Invisible Life Trilogy. It has an excellent story line and amazing, seemingly real characters. Talk about a 'page turner' book. Keep up the great work E.Lynn Harris!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2001

    Excellent Writing!!!!

    E Lynn Harris has done it again!! I enjoyed Abide with Me to the Max!!! I am now enthralled in 'Not a Day Goes By' Keep up the good work- E Lynn!!! A Fan Forever

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2000

    Excellent Reading

    Another book by E. Lynn Harris that keeps you wanting more. This book is truly hot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2001

    I have read them all!!!!!!!

    I have read the whole series and I have nothing but great things to say about all of Mr. Harris's books. He is a great writer, it is average reading and the stories are so real and even if you think no one else is going through the same things you are, you can find yourself in atleast one of the characters. Thank you Mr. Harris for providing me with hours of great reading!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2000

    Outstanding

    I love E Lynn Harris. This book was GREAT. He is an outstanding writer. You've got to read this!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2000

    Great Book

    I have read all of E. Lynn Harris' books and all of them are very entertaining. You must have an open mind to enjoy the books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2000

    Wonderful Work of Art

    I love this man!!! E. Lynn makes the characters jump off the pages..They seem more like old friends that you need to catch up with. The characters come to life and the situations that they are in are just mind blowin.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2000

    MUCH PRAISE

    I have enjoyed this whole series by E. Harris I finished all 3 novels in a short time This author knows how to keep you in the bookstore Awesome read I'd recommend starting w/the 1st novel Just As I am to follow this wonderful masterpiece.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2000

    ABIDE WITH ME

    I JUST FINISHED THIS BOOK, AND I LOVED IT. I READ ALL OF HIS BOOKS, AND WAS HOPING THAT THEY WILL NEVER END. PLEASE KEEP THE BOOKS COMING. I CAN'T GET BASIL HENDERSON OUT OF MY MIND. HIS WAY OF GOING INTO EACH CHARACTER IS SO GOOD, I FEEL LIKE I AM A PART OF IT. KEEP THE GOOD WORK UP..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2000

    Entertaining

    I have enjoyed all of Harris' books, but this one is not the best. I liken them to a sweet/fruity wine cooler. Light, enjoyable but not to be taken that seriously. However, I will probably read every book that Mr. Harris writes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2000

    'ABIDE WITH ME'...as long as you keep writing!

    ABIDE WITH ME was the book that I picked up without caring was the price was and bought it on the spot. It had been worth every penny I put into it. This is, without a doubt, an excellent ending to the INVISIBLE SERIES. When the story continues with Basil and Yancy in NOT A DAY GOES BY, consider it another purchase!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2000

    CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

    I HAVE TO GIVE MR.E CREDIT. THIS WAS A GREAT BOOK. JUST AS THE PREVIOUS TWO BOOKS. INVISIBLE LIFE AND JUST AS I AM. I REALLY ENJOYED THE CHARACTERS. HE LEFT ME WANTING TO KNOW MORE. AND THAT IS A BIG DEAL FOR ME. I AM NOT PLEASED TO SAY THAT I AM A SEVERE HOMOPHOBIC, BUT WITH E.LYNN HARRIS' HELP I HAVING A CHANGE OF HEART. SOME OF THE MALE/MALE LOVE SCENES WERE STILL A BIT MUCH FOR ME BUT THEY WERE VERY TASTEFULLY DONE.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2000

    SUPERB

    This book is amazing. This book is a must read for all....over 21. Whenever I pick up one of his books, it's none stop til the end. I have read all of his books, go out and buy you copies now.

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