E. Lynn Harris, the author of best-selling novels about the African-American gay community, has died at age 54, the Associated Press said today.
Publicist Laura Gilmore said Harris died Thursday night after being stricken at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, and a cause of death had not been determined. She said Harris, who lived in Atlanta, fell ill on a train to Los Angeles a few days ago and blacked out for a few minutes, but seemed fine after that.
Harris once wrote in Essence magazine: "The truth is that most brothers who are attracted to men are desperately afraid of revealing it. ... Many ... fear that ... they'll be drummed out of their families, destroying their only safe haven in an already unwelcoming society."
After graduating from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Harris sold computers for more than a decade before self-publishing his first novel, Invisible Life, in 1991, according to his website. The book was sold mainly through black-owned bookstores, beauty salons and book clubs, and became a sleeper hit; a few years later it was published by Anchor Books. Other books include If This World Were Mine (1997), Not A Day Goes By (2000), Any Way the Wind Blows (2001), and A Love of My Own (2002), which were New York Times bestsellers.
Among his awards: Blackboard Novel of the Year: Just As I Am, Any Way the Wind Blows and A Love of My Own; James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence: If This World Were Mine. In recent years, he has also been named to Ebony's "Most Intriguing Blacks" list, Out Magazine's "Out 100" list and New York Magazine's "Gay Power 101" list.