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Reginald Harris Remembers E. Lynn Harris

Reginald Harris Remembers E. Lynn Harris

Author: Reginald Harris

July 7, 2010

In the autograph line at a black librarian’s conference, I once asked E. Lynn Harris, “Who do you see as your audience?” Perhaps there was more than a touch of snark in my tone at the time. Although for many of us the first time we had encountered stories about black gay men was in the pages of one of his novels, as Lynn’s success grew some of his out readers began to chafe at his closeted characters. Sure, Basil Henderson and company had helped him ‘cross over’ to wide appeal with straight women, but we wanted him to write for US.

Lynn loved his fans, and supported other writers–sometimes gay, sometimes not–always giving audiences a list of books to read while they were waiting for his next novel. But ask him to define his audience? He wasn’t having it.

“Anyone who reads,” he replied demurely, and kept on signing. Like most authors, he was writing for himself, but he was also broadening the awareness of those not like us. He had no desire to be a gay icon, although he was that: he wanted to reach as many people as possible.

And if we wanted to see ourselves in print, Lynn was proof that you could succeed if you did what he had done: sit down and write your own books.

This July will be honoring the memory of author E. Lynn Harris, who passed away last year. As a part of our tribute, we asked his friends and peers to tell us about the important legacy of his work and his incredible impact on the community.

Reginald Harris photo

About: Reginald Harris

Poetry in The Branches Coordinator and Information Technology Director for Poets House in New York City, Reginald Harris won the 2012 Cave Canem /Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for Autogeography. A Pushcart Prize Nominee, recipient of Individual Artist Awards for both poetry and fiction from the Maryland State Arts Council, and Finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and the ForeWord Book of the Year for 10 Tongues: Poems (2001), his work has appeared in numerous journals, anthologies, and other publications.

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