If This World Were Mine

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Overview

Four friends, all graduates of Hampton Institute, keep a collective journal they call "If This World Were Mine," and share their personal diaries each month at a gathering filled with humor, gossip, and affirmation. The four group members are as different as the seasons, yet they all share a love of one another. Yolanda, a media consultant, keeps it going on with a no-nonsense attitude and independence that are balanced by the theatrics of Riley, a former marketing executive whose marriage has reduced her to a ...
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If This World Were Mine: A Novel

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Overview

Four friends, all graduates of Hampton Institute, keep a collective journal they call "If This World Were Mine," and share their personal diaries each month at a gathering filled with humor, gossip, and affirmation. The four group members are as different as the seasons, yet they all share a love of one another. Yolanda, a media consultant, keeps it going on with a no-nonsense attitude and independence that are balanced by the theatrics of Riley, a former marketing executive whose marriage has reduced her to a "kept woman with kids." Computer engineer Dwight's anger at the world is offset by the compassion of Leland, a gay psychiatrist whose clients make him question why God ever invented sex.

But after five years, the once-strong bonds of friendship are weakening, and the group must handle challenges of work, lost love, and a stranger in their midst. As the group members confront their true feelings toward each other, resentments and long-held secrets surface, and the stability of the group begins to disintegrate. Is their past friendship strong enough to survive the future?

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
E. Lynn Harris has already made publishing history. No black male novelist has ever before sold as many copies of his book as quickly as Harris has. With a nine-week stay on The New York Times bestseller list last year and appearances on bestseller lists across the nation, his third novel, And This Too Shall Pass, put Harris on the top of everyone's must-read list.

Now, with more than a half-million copies of his three novels in print, comes If This World Were Mine. This fourth work is a deft exploration of the ever-changing landscape of friendship among human beings, and in Harris's inimitable style, it reveals the story of a friendship that can — and must — survive the test of time and conflict in order to flourish.

Yolanda, Leland, Riley, and Dwight share a deep friendship forged in earlier years at Hampton University. In monthly reunions set in their hometown of Chicago, the friends enjoy evenings of gossip, companionship, and laughter and often discuss private entries in their personal diaries as well as what they have written in their collective journal, which they call "If This World Were Mine."

But after five years, the bonds of friendship are weakening, and the group must confront the challenges of work, lost love, and the affecting presence of a sexy stranger: gray-eyed John Basil Henderson, a character eerily haunted by his past. As the group members confront their true feelings toward each other, resentments and long-held secrets surface, and the stability of the group begins to falter. The disintegration of thesecomplexfriendships is halted by the specter of death, which forces the friends to recognize and accept the inner strength that they, as a group, have nurtured in each other.

In this as in all of his novels, Harris never ceases to remind us that life, like love, is about self-acceptance. In this vivid portrait of contemporary black life, with all its pressures and the complications of bisexuality, AIDS, and racism, Harris confirms a faith in the power of love — love of all kinds — to thrill and to heal, which will warm the hearts of readers everywhere.

From the Publisher
"So much humor is sprinkled through E. Lynn Harris's warm and timely new novel that we almost miss the pain lying underneath or the significance of its theme: Harris, who has written poignant love stories about African-American life before, turns eloquently again to the question of how people--black people in this case--learn to love in a tough and toughening society.  What we don't miss is the complicated political dilemma that Harris weaves quietly and seamlessly through the lives of the four protagonists, all of whom, as the book opens, find that their star is rising."
--Pat Holt, San Francisco Chronicle

"A breakout bestseller that features a sizzling mix of fast-paced storytelling...and lyrical sexuality."
--Paula L. Woods, Dallas Morning News

"It is rare to read a novel with African-American characters as refreshing as these.  Harris keeps the dialogue lively and the action zipping along while fully developing story and characters.  Ultimately both fun and moving, the book has something to impress nearly any reader."
--Booklist

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Harris, author of the bestseller And This Too Shall Pass, tells another involving tale of contemporary black lives. Members of a monthly journal-writing group, four African American friends from college days who all live in the Chicago area, help each other through the dramas of their respective lives. They're all approaching 40 and looking for answers: Riley Woodson, a self-proclaimed Black Princess immured in a stultifying marriage; Yolanda Williams, a media consultant; gay psychiatrist Leland Thompson; and Dwight Scott, a computer engineer simmering with hatred for white people. Best friends Leland and Yolanda each want to share life with a responsive mate; Dwight longs to extricate himself from his anger by working in a black-owned business; and Riley dreams of finding fulfillment as a poet and singer. But betrayals in love and business, as well as other conflicts and resentments, threaten to wrench them apart. As the characters work through their individual knots of personal dilemmas, they rediscover the bonds that initially drew them together. A supple raconteur, Harris explores the intimacies of friendship with a sensitive eye. Yet it's likely that many readers will long for more structure and dramatic payoff than this complex yet amorphous and sometimes sentimental buddy tale provides. Author tour. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The author of hits like Just As I Am (LJ 2/1/94), named Book of the Year in 1996 by the Blackboard African-American Booksellers, envisions a reunion of four Howard University friends.
Kirkus Reviews
A journal-writing group helps four black college friends see each other through major and minor crises, in Harris's fourth outing (And This Too Shall Pass, 1996, etc.)

Yolanda, Riley, Dwight, and Leland, all alumni of the Hampton Institute, gather regularly to read their journal entries and ask each other questions like "What are you grateful for?" Yolanda, a consultant who's extricated herself from a so-so marriage, has a take-charge attitude toward the many men who pursue her. Self-deluding Riley has an incredibly overbearing mother, a husband who's always away on business, and aspirations to be a poet and singer; her friends are gently discouraging, so she turns to the Internet for support. Dwight, a computer engineer, finds that his colleagues' racism and his exaggerated hostility toward whites cause problems at work. Leland, a gay therapist and Yolanda's best friend, is the gentle heart of the group; his chicken-wingmagnate uncle, also gay, dispenses homespun wisdom in abundance. Over the course of the story, the characters undergo cataclysms of varying intensity. Riley strikes up an E-mail relationship with a stranger who signs himself "Lonelyboy"; he turns out, all too unsurprisingly, to be her own estranged husband. Dwight quits his job and contemplates going to work for a black-owned computer company in Washington. Yolanda, meanwhile, meets John Basil Henderson, an ex-football player with a high-intensity courtship style (limos, massages, surprise trips to New Orleans). But John is concealing a past that includes bisexuality and an episode of blackmail; Leland, who's learned from a client that John isn't all he seems to be, must wrestle with the ethical question of whether to tell Yolanda what he knows.

What starts off as an amiable enough soap opera quickly becomes mired in byzantine subplots and friends-stick-by-each-other clichés.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385486569
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 730,771
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

E. Lynn Harris
E. Lynn Harris
How to categorize E. Lynn Harris? An African-American novelist? A gay novelist? A literary romance writer? Nothing quite fits, but to Harris’s fans, his bestselling novels belong in a genre of their own: one in which the characters are as difficult and complex as their problems, and the solutions as bittersweet and resonant as they often are in life.

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

July 1991

Dear Friend of Hampton University:

It was so great seeing you at the recent reunion. I'm so happy you're considering joining the journal-writing group. As I mentioned at the brunch, all you need to do for membership is write a small journal entry for the first meeting.

Please share with us your dreams, your goal in five years, and your favorite season and why. Also any other information you want to share about your life since we left Hampton Institute, now Hampton University. It seems like those of us who married aren't the only ones whose name has changed (smile). Please keep it to five hundred words or less. I look forward to seeing you at the first meeting. Now get to writing!

Blue and White Kisses,
Riley Denise Woodson



The Life of . . . Riley

Sometimes I come up with the most brilliant ideas! I think this journal- writing group is going to be a big hit. The people I've invited to join are absolutely wonderful. First, there is Leland, whom I met in the Hampton Marching Pirate band; he was the drum major, I was a majorette. Yolanda and I met at a Delta Sigma Theta rush session, when we were numbers 78 and 80. I don't remember who was number 79, because she didn't make line. Finally, my VC (Virginia Cleveland) Hall suitemates, Kelli and Dana. And Dwight and Selwyn because he married Kelli and Selwyn married me.

My life has become everything I dreamed it would be after I met Selwyn Curtis Woodson in front of The Grill on my first day at Hampton. I was having a hard time reading the schedule of classes, and he guided me through registration. It was love at first kiss. Even my mother, Clarice, adiva hefore her time, has fallen in love with Selwyn. So what if it took fifteen years, three promotions, and a six figure salary to melt her opposition. She only demands, I mean wants, the best for her children.

I remember when I first told her about Selwyn and she asked me who was his family. When I said he's from a foster family, Clarice asked, "The Fosters from Richmond?" Mother was shocked when I explained that Selwyn, a self-described Grady baby (born in Atlanta's Grady Hospital), was raised in several foster homes and didn't know who his parents were. The way Selwyn overcame adversity is one of the things I love about him. My mother's trauma at Selwyn's roots, or lack of, was nothing compared to the lashing I got when I announced during my junior year that I was pregnant with twins. Of course, she fell in love with my little boy (Reginald) and girl (Ryan) hours after they were born. So much that she felt the need to raise them for the first eight years of their life. My children are adorable, but Mother didn't give a hoot about adorable, she was trying to make sure I had a B.S. to go with my M.R.S.

So that's enough about my family and me. My desire is for life to stay as wonderful as it is now. A loving husband, two perfect preteens, and a life my mother dreamed for herselú

My personal dreams? First I want to quit my job as vice president of marketing, at Wanda Mae Cosmetics simply because I've outgrown peddling blushes and lip gloss to welfare mothers. In five years I want to be a singer and poet who will make even Gwendolyn Brooks and Whitney Houston green with envy. I want my children at Hampton, studying something impressive and challenging. And I want my husband to be even more in love with me than he is today. If that's possible. I hope by then my mother and father have given up their post as members of Black Chicago society and moved to Florida or somewhere.

My favorite season? Fall. It's when I met Selwyn, when my children were born. I love the way leaves change colors. Change is good. I want to say more about my wonderful life, but I think I'm over my limit.

Riley


Mad As I Wanna Be

I love my wife. I think I love my wife. I want to love my wife. I can't say that we're in love anymore, but that's why we're joining this group. Kelli thinks I'm angry at the world, and she just may be right. The problem is that she thinks my anger is spilling over into our marriage. So, instead of paying somebody to listen to our problems, I've agreed to join this journal-writing group with her.

I met Kelli Chambers Long during our freshman year at Hampton. We were at a Sigma-Zeta mixer. Kelli pledged Zeta Phi Beta and wanted me to pledge Phi Beta Sigma. But I decided to remain independent. I'm Black, not Greek. The only colors I wanted to wear were the red, black, and green colors of liberation. The only thing I've ever joined was church, and that was when I was ten years old. I quit that when the minister tried to hit on my mother. Sunday dinner, my foot! He was already married. But Kelli loves being part of a group. She's in everything from the Links to the Doubleday Book Club.

It's not that I'm angry per se. There's just a lot of shit I don't care for. I don't like white folks and I don't like Black folks who try and be like white folks. I don't know which I dislike the most. I'm sick and tired of the subtle racism inflicted by whites and I'm real sick of Uncle Tom Blacks who accept it without protest. I never dreamed when I was at Hampton that I would run into so many people who were ashamed of being working-class Black folks. They actually believe everything they see about themselves on television or in the white press, where Black folks are "murdered" or "killed" and white folks are "slain." Black folks are crackheads, white folks have drug problems. The only paper I read is the Chicago Defender. Same goes for movies. I won't go to any movies unless they've hired at least one Black actor or actress in a meaningful role. This really pisses Kelli off, because she loves that Meryl Streep chick.

I have to work around a lot of white men on my job, but the only men I address as "sir" are Black men. As far as I'm concerned, they're the only ones who deserve my respect.

My dreams? I don't dream. That's all I need to say about that. I have nightmares occasionally--usually about incidents in my childhood, but I don't want to go there. Ever.

My favorite season is summer. It's the one time of the year that I know I will feel warm in an otherwise cold and lonely world.

My goal in five years is to not have to deal with white folks on any level. I want either to have my own business or work for a Black-owned company. I also want to make the brothers who ain't here-- including my own brother--proud. I want them to look down and see that all Black men aren't in prison, on drugs, part-time heterosexuals, or in the ground over some silly shit. On a material tip, I'd like to buy my mother a house so she can move out of the two-bedroom apartment she's been living in for the last twenty-two years.

And maybe by the time five years rolls around, me and Kelli will be like that old LTD song, "Back in Love Again."

Dwight


Sisterfriend

I guess you could call me a springtime kind of girl. Spring is such a lush season, when the sky, beautiful in colors of pink, blue, and gray, seems endless in every direction. Spring isn't harsh like winter, or suffocating like summer. Spring is hopeful. And right now I'm feeling hopeful. I finally feel I'm ready to make some progress toward my dream life. The last time I was this optimistic was the spring I graduated from Hampton Institute. When I was at Hampton, life was deliciously uncomplicated, like my childhood. Then, my yesterdays and tomorrows always had a great deal in common. Full of promise. I felt I could do anything and I'm feeling that way again.

I just completed my business plan for my banker to secure an SBA loan to start my own company, and she tells me things look good. I'm so confident, I've already put down a deposit on a downtown office location. I've ordered my business cards and can envision the day when I'll need a larger work space. My professional goals are in place, and soon I can turn my attention toward having a special someone in my life.

Over the years, I have established a formula for men and love. I like to call it Yolanda's Plan for a Man. First, I let men know they're not the be-all and end-all. Then I tell them how much I love men and how that love is shown when I'm treated the way I treat them. Plain and simple. Don't start no s-h, it won't be no i-t! I tell them, treat me the way you want to be treated. When men don't return my calls, I don't return calls. When men can't give me honesty, can't find the truth, I book. I can't deal with liars.

In my twenties I stayed in a relationship six years before I realized he wasn't the one. In my thirties a man gets six months to show his stuff or it's "see ya." If I'm still looking in my forties, I'll give a man six weeks before I say "next." I won't have time for love games. I'll be too old, and I'll have a business empire to run.

So while I'm building my queendom and waiting on Mr. Right, I think this group will be fine. I'm looking forward to renewing old friendships and getting to know you guys even better. To see how much we've changed. Besides, my daddy told me when I started dating that "only fools and the very brave dare love with all their hearts." And Daddy didn't raise no fools. Though secretly in my heart of hearts I think we all want someone that makes our skin dance.

Friendship is the one thing that's always been constant in my life. When I was growing up, my best friend was my sister, Sybil. She still is, but Sybil has found her perfect mate and she lives in another city. She didn't mind when I went to Hampton and she stayed home for college. I used to tell her about all the wonderful people I met at Hampton, and I know she'll be happy we're all hooking up again.

Okay, I've told you my favorite season, my goals and dreams, and a little about the woman I am. Now, Miss Riley, I hope this is the last time we have to do this, because I like to show what kind of friend I can be rather than tell.

Yolanda


Doctor, Doctor

I had a dream once. His name was Donald. I don't know what you dream about when your dreams are gone. Do you start new ones? I think that's tough when everything you've ever dreamed of comes true and then suddenly disappears like a thin cloud after the sun shows up.

I had to think hard about joining this group. Not because I don't think it's a good idea, but because things are different now. Two years later the dream of Donald has faded, and I'm different. I'm no longer the man who was consumed by dreams, music, and his plans to be a doctor. I was a man who once envied most of your lives. I watched you join fraternities and sororities, dance and flirt with one another and then fall in love, while I immersed myself in music and my studies. I can't tell you how many nights I went back to James Hall alone, and wished I were you. I don't anymore.

After leaving Hampton Institute, I went to medical school at Howard. I had planned to be a family practitioner in a community clinic, but while I was at Howard, a little boy entered my life. I don't know his name, but I will never forget his face. He was nine years old and he had a venereal disease, but he couldn't tell us how he got it, because his mother's boyfriend was looking at him with an evil eye. I remember those sad eyes that wouldn't meet mine, but every now and then would move toward the man who had brought him in to the clinic. I thought, this young man is going to have a difficult life if he survives this. Who will he talk to? This little boy convinced me I could be an asset to my community if I went into psychiatry. I wanted to be the someone that little boy could talk to about what was burning inside. So my goal is to have a practice that will help those little boys and girls who cannot speak when the unspeakable greets them. I know I sound like Miss America, but I want to help people deal with life. To make up for the little boy I didn't know how to help.

After Howard, I did my residence at Columbia University and Harlem Hospital. It was in New York where I met my dream. There were so many times with Donald when I felt he was some type of angel whose responsibility was to make my dreams come true.

One winter night, after a movie and dinner, we sat in Donald's apartment, listening to the music of the seventies. You know, the Isley Brothers, the O'Jays, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin. A tear rolled from my eye as ribbons of a winter moonlight moved into the darkened room. Without knowing where my tear came from or why, Donald looked at me and said, "Dance with me." So on the terrace of a Harlem brownstone we slow- danced to the music of all the songs I loved in my teens, like "If This World Were Mine," "Stairway to Heaven," "Giving Him Something He Can Feel," and "Hello, It's Me." I had never slow-danced with anyone, but with Donald I was suddenly a Black Fred Astaire. Snow was falling, and it landed on our bodies like tiny sparks. It felt magical. I learned to appreciate the beauty and power of snow. Honest. Silent. Pure.

My favorite season is winter. And so I keep that winter night, dancing with Donald, deep inside me and look forward to the day when I can once again enjoy its splendor.

Leland


Player Hater

Something's not right. I'm moving mirrors again.

I'm feeling mellow, a moody sadness like being in a dimly lit room listening to some Miles Davis. Last time I felt this down, I removed all the mirrors except the one attached to the wall in the bathroom. Removing the mirrors was a better option than putting out my own eyes. Made me feel a little crazy, like I just couldn't stand the sight of myselú My own reflection in other people's eyes was better than how I felt about myself then. In their eyes I look good, I look strong. They can't see what I see, or what I've seen.

I was happy once. When? I don't exactly remember. But what does "happy" mean anyway? Does it mean that you're always grinning at everybody like a fool? That your body feels like it's dancing even when it's not? I think the last time I was happy was in my senior year at college. Me and my football team, the Miami Hurricanes, were the national champs, and I was one of the star players. Made all-American that year. I was engaged to a beautiful woman, Chase Lewis, a dead ringer for Halle Berry. I was in love for the first time and it was like the sun had dropped down from the sky and kissed me.

I just don't feel right. It's not like I-wanna-kill-myself sad. I wouldn't punk out like that. Maybe it's just that my life is getting ready to change. Big-time.

I have lived the life many men dream about. Picked in the first round in the NFL draft. Setting receiving records nobody has come close to touching. I was making big bank, had a shoe contract, made a few commercials, and was on everybody's wish list when it came to making an appearance at an opening or party.

I figured I had at least two more good years to play, but my football career has ended prematurely because of an ACL injury to my right knee. I'm okay though. You know I still got my walk. A player gotta have his walk. But the team doctor and my own personal physician have warned me that if I sustain another injury to my knee, I mi
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Interviews & Essays

On Tuesday, September 23rd, barnesandnoble.com welcomed E. Lynn Harris to discuss IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE.


Moderator: Welcome, Mr. Harris! Thanks for joining us tonight. Is this your first online chat?

E Lynn Harris: No, actually it's my third. I'm glad to be here, though.


Collette Hughes from Atlanta, Georgia: Mr. Harris, a friend of mine introduced me to your work, and I have been extremely pleased with it. I would like to know when or if you will be appearing in person anytime soon in the Atlanta area to sign your books? I would like it very much to just spend the day in your presence.

E Lynn Harris: Thank you for the support! I've already been to Atlanta, though I will be back, at Emory University in late October, but I'm not sure of the date.


Melody from Ann Arbor, MI: Mr. Harris, in your opinion, was Basil truly in love with Yolonda? My guess is yes, but I have had a major debate going on with my brother! He feels that he wasn't in love, but was merely trying to conquer her. I do not feel this at all. Can you please clear this up for us? We both are huge fans of yours and have read all four of your books. When will you be in the Detroit area?

E Lynn Harris: First, thank you! From the author's perspective, Basil was very much in love with her -- he had to face many of his personal demons to get what he wanted. So you are right, Melody. I've been to Michigan as well, and I've been invited to speak at the Flint Public Library, but I don't have a date for that.


Kelley from Minneapolis: How did you know you were meant to write? What gave you the courage to quite your job and write full-time?

E Lynn Harris: I guess a whole lot of pain in my life. Writing was a last resort in terms of having a reason to be here. From that perspective, I realized it was something I was destined to do, but I'd been caught up in so many of the world's dreams that I couldn't recognize my own.


Grace Anne from Philadelphia, PA: Your books seem to reflect a deep appreciation for strong women. What is it like to write from a female perspective, and who have been your female role models?

E Lynn Harris: Good question. My role models, of course, have been my mother and sister and good female friends. For me it is relatively easy to write from that perspective, because 80 percent of my conversations have been with women in my day-to-day life. And I really appreciate women -- it's easy to write in the voice of people you like.


Jane McCarthy from Paradise, CA: Did you have a group of college friends like the one in IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE? The network among these friends is powerful and seems personally inspired.

E Lynn Harris: Actually, I developed those kind of relationships after college through a friend from college. After school we gathered once we had our first jobs. Though some have died, most of us are still in contact and maintain close ties.


Max from Hamilton, New York: Has it been difficult for you to remain detached from the politics of being gay? It must be difficult as such a successful writer not to become a symbol or a voice -- though I think you are successful for that reason!

E Lynn Harris: Good question. I'm not interested in politics, so it's easy for me. I would like to be considered an artist, though I know there are politics involved in becoming an artist. What I want to do with my writing is change not people's minds, but their hearts, and I don't think that's political.


David Foster from Manhattan: How did you confront the conflicts between homosexuality and religion in your books? Did writing about it help resolve the issue in your own life? I just bought AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS at the suggestion of a friend and am looking forward to reading more of your work. Thanks!

E Lynn Harris: Thank you. JUST AS I AM helped me to resolve my own questions of faith and sexuality. It was through writing that novel that I learned that the God I believe in loved me no matter what, that there were no degree of sins.


Melody from Ann Arbor: Will we hear more from Raymond in the near future?

E Lynn Harris: Yes. The next book I'm working on will be in Raymond's voice.


Rasjg@aol.com from St. Louis, MO: Is there going to be a play based on INVISIBLE LIFE and JUST AS I AM?

E Lynn Harris: Yes. It's in the works, due to premier at Florida A&M in the spring.


Ryan Fowler from Chicago: What kind of writing projects are you working on right now? Do you have a goal that you feel drawn to in your writing or life in general?

E Lynn Harris: Right now I'm getting ready to start my fifth novel, which will be the conclusion of the Invisible Life trilogy. And my goal as far as writing goes is for each novel to be better than the previous.


Melanie from Columbia, SC: I love your works! I understand a trip to SC State University some time ago was not very pleasant. Have you noticed certain groups of people, particularly southerners, not as accepting of your subject matter?

E Lynn Harris: No, that particular event was singular in terms of what transpired.


Prya from Indiana: Who have been your literary inspirations? You have indeed inspired many a reader and a writer yourself!

E Lynn Harris: Thanks. Actually, I'm inspired by anyone who is able to get a novel published, because I realize how hard it is. Among my favorite writers are James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Tina Ansa, Terry McMillan, Bebe Moore Campbell. In addition, new writers like Dawn Turner Trice, Tananarive Due, Shenska Jackson, and Brian Keith Jackson.


Amelia from Charlotte: Mr. Harris, you said that a lot of pain in your life caused you to become a writer. Is there any one event that played a bigger role than another that sent you to the typewriter?

E Lynn Harris: No, it was a series of events.


Kerry Battiston from Wilmington, DE: Did you have a articular audience in mind when you wrote IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE? You seem to cover so many types of people from all over. Thanks for such a wonderful book.

E Lynn Harris: I want anyone who reads to enjoy my novels, so no, I've no particular audience in mind.


Melody from Ann Arbor: My brother wants to know if any movies will come of your books.

E Lynn Harris: I'm in discussions right now about all of the books.


Katherine Brown from NYC: Do you think there is a different reaction to homosexuality in the black community? Is their response unique?

E Lynn Harris: I think it's different in the sense that for many of us, we haven't talked about it, so it's new, but I don't think that's necessarily a negative reaction.


Wendy from Oklahoma City: What do you say to those people, and there seem to be a lot of them, who believe homosexuality and Christianity are mutually exclusive?

E Lynn Harris: That I would take my chances with Jesus Christ rather than people's opinion. I, as an individual and as a Christian, have to follow my heart, which I know Christ respects.


Heather Blaire from Great Barrington, VT: Your writing strikes me as somewhere between commercial and literary. Which did you intend? I'm looking forward to reading IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE.

E Lynn Harris: Good point! When I started writing, I didn't know there was a distinction but have come to realize there is. As a Gemini, I want to offer readers a little bit of both.


Melody from Ann Arbor: Mr. Harris, you also live in one of my favorite cities, if I'm correct: Chicago. What does your schedule look like there? I would make a special trip to get my books signed! Just missed ya in Southfield, MI!

E Lynn Harris: Right now I'm in hibernation. Email the appropriate people at the publishing house, and they will tell you where to send the books so they can be signed.


Rory from Florida: Hey, E. Lynn, I have two questions for you:

1)I am planning to write a book of commentaries very soon (I am already in the 8th grade and figured that December would be the perfect time to start). When I start writing this book, should I think of what commentaries I want to write? Do some research? What should I do?
2)How do you overcome writer's block?
Thanks a bunch!

E Lynn Harris: You should just write -- write where your heart and mind directs. In terms of writer's block, just wait it out -- it happens.


Benita R. Dale from Washington, D.C.: I have truly enjoyed reading your books. They have been most enjoyable and entertaining. I am developing a black book review newsletter and would like to know if I could use any of your responses tonight, especially on your upcoming projects, in my newsletter. I will also send you a copy of my first issue whenever it hits the press. God bless, and good luck on future endeavors.

E Lynn Harris: Good luck! I would be happy to be included and think it's wonderful that you're striking out to do something like that!


Kayepea from NYC: What is the writing process like for you? Are you strictly a 9-to-5-er, or do you work beyond those parameters?

E Lynn Harris: Midday for me. I'm more of an 11 to 3 person. In the evening I do research and editing.


ThunderCloud from aol.com: What's the most surprising thing you learned about either yourself or one of your characters in your latest book, IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE?

E Lynn Harris: Good question. About myself, some of the subtle anger I have about racism and homophobia in terms of gay relationships not being recognized as real relationships; and with my character Basil, that he endures so much pain as a little boy.


Sean from California: Mr. Harris, do you have any advice for those dealing with their own homosexuality? Anything to help them deal with other people's negative reaction to it?

E Lynn Harris: Realize that in the scheme of things, what other people think doesn't really count. What matters most is what you know to be true about yourself and how you feel about yourself when you're alone.


Amy from NYC: Mr. Harris, what did transpire on your trip to South Carolina?

E Lynn Harris: It's one of those lessons learned where I learned to treat the negative greetings in my life like I treat the positive ones. It was a positive lesson that I needed to learn because I started to go through life thinking everyone was happy about everything I was doing.


Seth Dermott from Hinsdale, IL: Did you learn anything unexpected when you wrote this last book of yours? Or was it all pretty planned out?

E Lynn Harris: I realize the difference between associates and true friends. True friends are people you would trust with anything, including your life.


Al from Charleston, WV: Love your work! As a gay minority myself, I often feel alienated from the homosexual world of white men, and being from an area where the homosexual community is predominately white, I'm curious as to what advice you would give in helping other homosexual men in the minority deal with the issues of double prejudice, especially where there isn't much support for people like myself in non-urban areas.

E Lynn Harris: I sympathize with what it must be like to live without an urban influence, but I would use the time to become comfortable and confident with myself, so when the situation comes, whether you're a member of the minority or the majority, you are prepared, because you have a sense of self.


Rick Blalock from Atlanta, Georgia: Hello, E. Lynn. Sorry I missed you in Atlanta. How has the rest of the tour been for you? What do you suggest upcoming authors do to prepare for national book tours?

E Lynn Harris: Hi, Rick. The tour has been exhausting, and what I would recommend is exercise, water, vitamins, and a great support system.


Johnston from 125th St.: Do you ever think about exploring other genres? If so, which ones and why?

E Lynn Harris: I always want to write about what's happening in the world now. While I feel like my books are concerned with breaking down the barriers for homosexuality, I would like to show readers the power of one in changing the world, in ridding the world of all the isms: sexism, racism....


Crystal Carter from Lake Charles, LA: First, I would like to say that you are a very talented writer, and I love your books. I did not deny that people of the same sex can love one another, but through your books I find it very real. You write with such passion and true love for the art (because I feel like writing is an art), that I have been inspired to start writing poetry again. Thanks, and I look forward to reading the new novel.

E Lynn Harris: Thanks! Writing poetry, I think, is a very difficult thing. I admire you and wish you the best of luck.


Amelia from North Carolina: Of the literary achievements you have earned, which is most precious to you?

E Lynn Harris: Well, JUST AS I AM winning Book of the Year by the African American Booksellers, and the fact that my new novel made every bestseller list in the country, reaching number two in several cities!


Josie from Carnegie: What's been the most rewarding part of your success in writing?

E Lynn Harris: On one side, it's been the letters and responses from everyday people. From a material standpoint, being able to fulfill a little boy's dream of buying a home for his mother.


Emily from Andover: What was your initial reaction when you read Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN? What prompted you to refer to it with your own book INVISIBLE LIFE?

E Lynn Harris: How powerful it was. And how the plight of being a minority and being invisible for so many people extended beyond the level of race.


Beth from Greenwich Village: Which authors in the gay and lesbian genre do you think offer the most inspiration?

E Lynn Harris: Patricia Nell Warren, James Earl Hardy, Scott Hine -- that's really all I've read.


Wanda Banks from Huntsville, TX: Was there any special influence in writing this book?

E Lynn Harris: My relationship with my best friend, who is a black, heterosexual female. Our relationship, which is 20 years old, has only gotten better with every day.


Terry Fisher from Brooklyn: Have you been approached about turning any of your books into films? I think they would be groundbreaking on the screen just as they are on the shelves!

E Lynn Harris: Yes, I'm trying to make sure I deliver my babies to the right caretaker.


Naomi Woodford from Hartford, CT: Did your time in sales contribute anything to the writing of your book?

E Lynn Harris: It helps once the book is written in terms of marketing and in realizing that the public is the boss.


Wanda Banks from Huntsville, TX: Where is your most favorite place to write?

E Lynn Harris: Good question. Right now I have to say it is NYC -- whenever I am in a rush to get the story written, the city provides the energy. Also, my home in Chicago, which overlooks Lake Michigan.


Derrick from Detroit, MI: Mr. Harris, I am interested to know about your opinion of current race relations in the U.S. Do you think things are improving or getting worse?

E Lynn Harris: I think they are at a standstill. I think we went through a period when they were getting worse, but now people are realizing we need each other to thrive as a country, but we don't know how to come together yet.


Timothy from Philly: Mr. Harris, what advice do you have for novice writers? Any tips on how to get published?

E Lynn Harris: To write because you absolutely love it, to write because you would do it for free, to write because it brings you joy. In terms of getting published, remember that "no" doesn't always mean "no."


Moderator: Thanks for taking time to join us this evening, Mr. Harris. Goodnight.

E Lynn Harris: Thank you and thank all those people who have supported me and continue to spread the word about my work -- it means the world to me.


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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2003

    HOOKED

    I was HOOKED when I first turned on to E. Lynn Harris. I can't remember which book I read first but I have read them all except A Love of My Own but it's in my TBR pile. My favorite being Any Way The Wind Blows.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2002

    TOP OF MY LIST

    I THOUGHT THAT THIS BOOK ALONG WITH THE OTHERS WAS VERY INTERTAINING. I THINK THAT HE IS A VERY GOOD WRITER AND THAT HE SHOULD MAKE MOVIES OUT OF HIS FILMS. HIS BOOKS ALWAYS KEEP ME WANTING MORE.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2003

    IOnce you start you wont be able to put it down

    The book is full of suprises and events. I enjoyed the book especially becasue it was African American gay lititure andthat is always great! I also belive that the formatin which the author writes the book keeps you reading!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2002

    The value of friendship...

    A true tale of trust, friendship, and understanding.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2002

    Worth Movie Making......

    This book could have been called the Real World like the MTV sitcome. It deals with life to life bases and I really loved it. Lynn used his great talents to create a beautiful book!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2001

    Blazin Story!!!!

    I Loved it. All of E. Lynn Harris' novels are the best. He really makes you feel for the characters even if you hate them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2000

    A GREAT BOOK TO READ!!

    I really enjoyed this book especially since the ending was very heart warming.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2000

    DICEY & SPICY AS USUAL

    I somehow missed this book when it first came out although I had read the books precending and a few after. However, as with the others, it held my attention until the end. Still filled with juicy characters and Mr. Harris's 'G-flavor', all I can say is that Mr. Harris truly has a gift for storytelling. One thing bother's me however, and that it that his books seem to glorify premiscuity -- can anyone spell HIV AND AIDS?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2000

    Outstanding A Work Of Art - Harris Rules

    This book touched a hot spot in my mind,it is an Outstanding work of art, E Lynn Harris is my weakness today, and everyday from this moment after. He has given me so much joy, created so much laughter. I think of this book and begin to smile, because I now know what my heart's been after. Filled with natural adventures to boggle one's mind.Tears of joy pour because this book hit home,Mr. Harris left foot-prints under the sheets.I strongly recommend this book and all of E.Lynn Harris's work. I like his style,' It was like Mr. Harris knew my life story' .This is why he is my forever weakness, I love his work, I am his greatest fan

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2000

    A real real real good book

    This is the best book. I laughed and I cryed. This book was all that. I hope there is going to be a part II.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2000

    AS GOOD AS ALL HIS OTHERS

    E. Lynn Harris is a wonderful author. I have read all but two of his latest books (one hasn't been released yet) and can't wait to start them. He has opened the minds of so many of my 'narrow-minded' friends. They all laughed and made fun of me when I told them what his books were about, now they're beating me to BN and buying them before I am. Keep up the good work!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2000

    A Real Approach to Black Sexuality

    'If This World Were Mine' provides a new meaning for black sexuality, particularly the black male. The dynamics of E.Lynn Harris' ability to communicate truth and honesty is amazing. It has been over a year since I have read the text, but the joy of reading such an accurate depiction of many gay black lives, straight ones too, has allowed me to reflect upon new possibilities and limitless opportunity. As our society continues to depict men who 'become' gay as nasty and disgraceful, Harris introduces us to this as more of a mystery. Indeed, being gay is a mystery. Especially, when we began to think spiritually and the interconnected characteristics that no longer serve as stereotypes but commonalities. Harris has his finger in this book and his other texts also pinpoint the dynamic of this long, lost, and sometimes unavailable mystery of black sexuality.

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    Posted November 30, 2008

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    Posted October 17, 2010

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