E. Lynn Harris, an openly gay African-American author, most known for his depictions of African-American men on the down low or in the closet, has died at age 54.
The Arkansas Times newspaper reported on its Web site that Harris suffered "a serious health set back" Friday morning and later updated the story reporting that Harris had died.
Harris was on a west coast tour to promote his 11th bestseller, "Basketball Jones." He launched the tour in January with a reading and signing in Atlanta.
Harris' personal assistant, who reportedly found Harris in his hotel room, confirmed Harris' death to Essence.com, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.
Harris was born in Flint, Mich., and raised in Little Rock, Ark. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where he was the school's first Black yearbook editor, the first Black male Razorbacks cheerleader, and the president of his fraternity.
Harris burst onto the literary scene in 1994 with “Invisible Life,” the story of Raymond Tyler, a young Black man fighting to make sense of his love for his girlfriend and his attraction to his friend Kelvin. Harris originally self-published the book three years earlier while living in Atlanta, and peddled it from the back of his car before being picked up by Anchor Books, an imprint of publishing giant Doubleday.
His novels presented a fresh, honest spin on African-American gay life and opened the dialogue within the community. Harris is credited along with Terrie McMillan with fueling the resurgence of Black fiction literature sales in the 1990s. According to his Web site, all of his novels reached the NY Times bestsellers list.
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