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There are times when I think that I, Chauncey Dion Greer, am passing through this life on my way to the life God really planned for me. Then, at other times, I think that God must have a wicked sense of humor. Who knew? How else could you explain me sitting here in the green room at CNN on Election Eve, sweating like a fat man in a sauna wearing a warm-up suit, and staring at a tray of sliced melons? I don't know if I'm about to do something noble or if I'm about to get P-I-M-P-E-D.
It's not like my life has been without its good moments. Whenever I'm stressed out, I think back to the days when I went fishing with my daddy, and I begin to smile inside. We'd stop at Reverend Nick's Bait and Tackle with our fishing gear, purchase our supplies, and then pack it all together with the peanut butter and homemade straw-
berry jam sandwiches that my mother would make for our lunch. All the way to Blue Lake, we'd brag about the fish we were going to catch. I also remember when I won my first songwriting contest when I was sixteen. And, of course, I'll never forget when I met him.
Still, something happens to your soul when the expiration date on your love life comes and goes before you turn twenty-five. Was I getting ready to share that love life with the world because I thought it mattered, or because Iwanted to finally get revenge? Was I trying to do the right thing, or just wanting to settle the score with the person I had once loved the most but I now despised?
I stood up, glanced at the mirror on the wall, and straightened my tie. I stared at my reflection, checking to see if the makeup artist hadn't applied too much powder to my mink-colored skin and if it would really prevent me from shining once the studio lights hit my face.
Just as I picked up a small paper plate and headed for some melon, a high, annoying voice whispered into my ear.
"Mr. Greer, we have a small problem."
I turned and faced the tall, thin, pale woman with freckles dominating her oval face. Her strawberry-blond hair was pulled back in a cheerleader's ponytail.
"Excuse me," I said.
"I'm Lauren Masterson, the executive producer of Larry King Live. Thank you for coming," she said as she extended her ringless hand.
"What happened to Mr. Gains?" I asked.
"He's coming down in a few, but I need to explain something." She motioned toward the red leather couch, and we sat down. Lowering her voice so the other guests in the green room couldn't hear her, she continued. "I think you spoke with one of our associate producers, Dana Wynn, and she agreed to interview you with your face in shadow and your voice disguised," she said.
I nodded. "Yes, both she and Mr. Gains promised me that we'd do it that way. That's the only reason I agreed to do the interview."
"Yes, Mr. Greer, and I know this is a very private matter for you, but I just don't think the interview will have the punch we need if you're not willing to reveal your identity. These are very serious charges that you are alleging against a man who could be elected U.S. senator within the next twenty-four hours and tip the scales as to who controls the Senate. The repercussions could be far-reaching."
"I understand that, but I only agreed to do the interview one way," I said firmly.
She shook her head, unwavering. "I'm sorry about what you were promised, but we simply can't do it that way." She paused. "Mr. Greer, this is live television, and I need to know if you're going to go on and tell your story just as you are."
For what seemed like an exceedingly long moment, we sat face-to-face in total silence. I pondered my choices. Either decision would change my life as I knew it.
What should I do?
What would I do?
Excerpted from I Say a Little Prayer by E. Lynn Harris Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of I Say a Little Prayer, an explosive look at the fraught relationship between black churches and the gay community by bestselling author E. Lynn Harris.
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?
Posted December 13, 2011
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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 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.