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From the Trade Paperback edition.
I would tell them that I’m a reformed heartbreaker trying to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with other people. There was a time in my twenties when I broke a lot of hearts and didn’t give a damn about how the person felt when I told them to hit the road or when I stopped returning their phone calls. This one dude, Greg, claimed he was so in love with me that he was going to kill himself if I left him. At that time in my life I was so cold-blooded, I slammed the door in his face and silently waited for a gunshot or broken window. I ignored him when I saw him a year later with another guy I’d slept with. I started to warn the other brotha that he was dealing with a psycho but felt they deserved one another–at that point in my life I would just go along to get along.
I’m a good-looking brotha (not bragging, just a simple fact) and I’ve had more than my share of equally good-looking brothers and maybe a half-dozen great-looking women. I have my weaknesses like any other man. I guess you could say I’m a LSC (light skin chaser). I prefer my men (and women) to be on the yellow side. Not the light bright and damn near white yellow, but that real nice golden brown. Good hair and light eyes doesn’t hurt. I’m not prejudiced or anything–I have mad respect for my darker-skinned brothers and sisters, since I’m chocolate myself–but my tastes tend to lighter.
I’m not confused about my sexuality. I’m basically bi with a gay leaning. You could say that my sexual tastes are similar to my love for gumbo. You feel what I’m saying? Sometimes I like a little sausage, other times a bit of shrimp. And every now and then, I get a taste for fish. But today, with so many people talking about down-low this and down-low that, it’s too much of a hassle dating women, because they ask too many damn questions. I still find myself attracted to women, but I don’t like to lie. I can save that sin for something else–like cussing out Jayshawn. The only thing brothas are interested in is your HIV status (like a brother gonna tell the truth) and how much you’re packing. Which also adds to my reputation when word got out that my stuff could extend a couple zip codes. And sisters, even though they don’t want to admit it, like that shit, too. Size does matter–to both sexes.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about my own mortality, and since I already got a point against me for the sleeping-with-dudes thing, I’ve been trying very hard to be nicer and not lead on women and fat ugly brothas unless they’re exceptional. If statistics are right about the life span of a black man, then I’m approaching the halfway point. Maybe God won’t hold my having been a whorish asshole the early part of my life against me. Now, when I meet somebody I want to hook up with on a sex tip, I tell them right up front that I will only go out (or, let’s be honest, fuck) with them up to three times. When they ask me if I’m kidding, I look them dead in the eye and say when a person tells you who they are, believe them. It’s the one thing I got from watching Oprah every now and then.
Still, these days I treat people the way I want to be treated, which means being honest and saying what’s what. Some people seem to appreciate that, while others think they can change me. But I know me, and I ain’t about to change for anyone. Been there, done that, got the heartbreak.
For me, love came calling the first time during the summer of 1982. My hometown–Greenwood, Mississippi–was as humid and sweaty as it always was when the extremely good-looking young outsider moved to town. I was strolling near an old dusty pink brick building known as Greenwood Junior High after a day of summer-school algebra. I hadn’t flunked the tough math course, but I’d made a D and my parents made me attend summer school “voluntarily,” forcing me to give up my annual trip to Chicago and my chance to play baseball. That made me mad, because I was just getting good at hitting the ball out of the park.
I looked toward the basketball court, where six young men ran up and down the court so fast, I wished I had the coordination and height to play with them. I heard the rhythmic sound of the basketball hitting the pavement. Then the clinging of the metal nets as the basketball swooshed through. I closed my eyes and imagined that I was in the middle of Harlem, witnessing a game of New York street ball like I had seen on television. But when I opened my eyes, that’s when I saw him. He was wearing a nondescript white T-shirt and baggy shorts. He looked like a midget among a forest of tall trees. I found myself gazing at only him, and when he looked in my direction, an aggressively bright sun stung his golden brown face. His eyes sparkled like a cold glass of ginger ale. From a distance his body looked compact, without an ounce of fat.
One of his teammates shouted for him to shoot, and the ball flew from his hand and arched high in the air before hitting nothing but net.
I heard a guy say, “I guess you can play, D. I heard they can shoot some hoops down in Georgia.”
Another echoed, “Your shot is so sweet, from now on we gonna call you Sweet D.”
After a few more laps up and down the court, Sweet D stopped his stride and looked at me. He smiled as he twirled the burnt-orange ball on the tip of his finger, and I knew that somehow he would become an important part of my life. The way his eyes seemed to pierce through me cemented my feelings.
That summer I made a B in algebra. I prepared myself for geometry and high school, and my sexual confusion began taking shape.
From the Hardcover edition.
1. The story of Chauncey’s past is interspersed with the main narrative. What does Harris achieve by telling the two stories simultaneously? In what ways do the past and the present play out against one another as the plot unfolds?
2. Chauncey calls himself “a reformed heartbreaker trying to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with other people” [p. 9]. Does “doing the right thing” require more than just “being honest and saying what’s what” [p. 11] with the men he briefly hooks up with? Are there consequences–to himself, as well as to his partners–that he doesn’t recognize or refuses to acknowledge? Is Chauncey’s casual approach to dating and sex widespread among men today, both straight and gay? Is the pattern common among women as well?
3. How has the growth of mega churches changed the practice of religion in contemporary America? Have these large, and usually wealthy, organizations abandoned the essential role of a church in the community? Is it possible to argue that a mega church, through its very size and marketing efforts, can attract Christians looking for a place to renew or rediscover their spirituality?
4. What was your reaction to the private party Chauncey attends [pp. 49—57]? Are the graphic descriptions of the various sexual encounters at the sex club, as well as other explicit scenes in the novel, integral to portraying Chauncey and his lifestyle in an accurate, realistic way?
5. Discuss Chauncey’s musings on sin [p. 58]. Do they express your own religious beliefs or moral principles? What specific values influence your judgments of your own and other people’s behavior? Is there an absolute moral code that applies to everyone or do individuals, religious authorities, or community standards define right and wrong?
6. Chauncey gives an important job to a new printer because he wants to “give a small black business a chance” [p. 66]. Do successful black businessmen have a duty to support other businesses within the black community? Is making a business decision on the basis of race (or gender or sexual preference) a form of discrimination?
7. Reverend Davis delivers a powerful sermon encouraging his followers to vote [p. 159]. Does the discussion of political or civic matters have a place in the church? Are there issues that religious leaders should not address? Have you experienced or read about incidents in which a minister, priest, or rabbi has crossed the line separating church and state? Is the political establishment guilty of bringing religious considerations into government policies and practices? Do you agree, for example, with Vincent’s claim that President Bush’s faith-based initiatives “get . . . ministers to sing his tune” [p. 221]?
8. Reverend Davis is aware of Damien and Grayson Upchurch’s ultraconservative views, yet he is eager to have him come to Abundant Joy. Are his explanations to Chauncey [pp. 178, 230—32] satisfactory? What are the ramifications, both good and bad, of giving Damien a forum to express his views?
9. Does the conversation between Chauncey and Damien [pp. 251—53] cast a different light on their past relationship? Do you think that Damien is sincere in his belief that what they were doing was wrong? What role did his fear of exposure play in his decision to betray Chauncey? How does Harris make their reconciliation believable?
10. I Say a Little Prayer features women only in secondary roles. Are Celia, Ms. Gladys, and Grayson Upchurch fully developed characters? Do their attitudes, problems, and achievements offer insights into lives of women in the African-American community? To what extent is Grayson Upchurch representative of a growing conservative trend in African-American politics?
11. Harris refers to several real people in the novel and also includes “cameo” appearances by characters from his other books. What does this add to your experience as a reader?
12. The question of accepting gays and lesbians has caused disruption in many churches. Does Harris treat the subject in a balanced and honest way? Does he offer fresh insights into the gay and lesbian point of view? Does his depiction of religious leaders who reject gays and lesbians in their churches adequately explore their reasons and motivations?
13. Is the black community is more homophobic than society-at-large? What historical, social, and cultural forces might explain this?
14. From the fight for women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement, American society has been changed through citizen-led campaigns for equal rights. Is the gay-rights movement comparable to past struggle for equality?
15. The conflict at the heart of I Say A Little Prayer may remind you of a recent real-life scandal. The Reverend Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who frequently spoke out against gay rights and same-sex unions, was “outed” by a man who had a sexual relationship with him. Is exposing the hypocrisy of public figures a moral obligation we all share? Are there situations in which such exposure causes more harm than good?
16. I Say a Little Prayer carries a strong political message. Do you think exploring political themes enhances or undermines the power of Harris’s fiction?
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Posted July 20, 2008
I thought this book was outstanding! I could never wanted to put it down. At the end of each chapter I could hardly wait to read what the next one had in store! The characters made this book funny as well. This was my first read by Harris and definitely won't be my last. I am looking into reading another one!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2008
I thought, 'I Say a Little Prayer,' was a GREAT book. I just got finished reading it. I have read many of Mr.Harris' books, and have yet to be disappointed!! I didn't want to put the book down!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 10, 2007
Very good characters- believable. It's not easy being gay and finding a church to attend where you are accepted with open arms. Important issues in a wonderfully written story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 7, 2007
I had never read one of Mr. Harris' books, until this one. I was so disappointed. I bought this book at full price and sold it to Half-Price Books for $1. That is how bad it was. I didn't have any of his other works to use as comparison. I have been told by several E. Lynn Harris fans that this books is one of his weakest, if not the weakest book he has written. I don't know if I will be willing to read him againWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 19, 2007
This one was okay but I didn't like Chauncey always biblically justifying his homosexuality no matter how responsible he was with it. This one was not as dramatic as some of E's previous books. However, I still look forward to the next one.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 18, 2007
Posted April 25, 2007
This was the first book that I had read by E. Lynn Harris, and I could not put the book down. I took it everywhere with me. I read it in two days. The way he is so desciptive and everything makes his characters really come alive!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 13, 2006
E. Lynn Harris grabbed my attention years ago. It was an eye-opener for me. His books have helped me to see life as a gay black man differently. Every since Invisible Life I have been reading his books and will continue to do so. What else can you expect but a good read from him. Looking forward to the next book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 12, 2006
Posted November 2, 2006
I LOVED THIS BOOK FROM THE FIRST SENTENCE IT STATES ITS VERY GOOD AND I LOVED HOW MUCH DRAMA IS IN THE BOOK HARRIS DID IT ONCE AGAIN. IT SHOWS THAT YOU CAN GROW AND NEVER FORGET WHAT YOU HAVE DONE THE PAST WILL ALWAYS BE PRESENT ALSO ITS OK TO BE GAY AND NO A SEX AHOLICWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 4, 2006
Posted July 8, 2006
I agree with those other readers on how E. Lynn did not have that same hot spice that captivate his readers. I have read every E. Lynn Harris book (and will continue to), but I wanted more of the drama that would have me thinking about this novel as if I saw it as a TV movie..I wanted that after thought...that..this book was the bomb!! type feeling. The excitement that would normally draw you to his novels was not there, and the ending was just that an ending...no fire.. no nothing just plain. I'm hoping the next novel due out in 08' has that spice, that page turner that grabs you and holds your attention, the type of read that'll have you up at night saying one more page then I'm going to sleep. Capture me..hold me..I want to feel like I'm there with them.. give me that 'OH MY GOD NO HE DIDN'T!! type drama.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 12, 2006
Another job well done! I always have to have another book ready to read because I finish all of Harris' books in a day or two. The story flows so well and you feel like you are in the story itself.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 14, 2006
I really enjoyed reading this book. I like how he stepped into another area politics and religion. In his other books he was into the gay men in sports. It's interesting to think about how many people may have once been in that lifestyle who are now speaking out against it because it's not society's norm. This book reminds us that some religious leaders, politicians and corporate executives are excepting of other lifestyles. It also makes you think about how many Chaunceys and Vincents you may know.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.