By E. Lynn Harris
Doubleday /266 pages / Hardcover
ISBN: 0385502648



In an emotional, heart-pulling introduction and first chapter, we are given an in-depth look into the real world of E. Lynn Harris, not the glamorized life many of his fans will assume he leads.  What Becomes of The Brokenhearted is the highly acclaimed and much anticipated release of the summer.  A tell-all on the life of an award-winning author who started out self-publishing and has continuously reached new heights writing about relationships between gay and bi-sexual men.  We are now able to learn more about the young child and man prior to what we believe or hear today and have read in the bios accompanying his books.

Opening with his suicide attempt in 1990, Harris immediately shows us that his life is by far very different from the wealthy characters he writes about. He tells of how even at a time in which he was ready to give up living, he was able to come back from “rock-bottom” through his faith in God as well as the support of friends and family.  Without delay, he grabs the reader’s attention and then takes you back in time as he shares childhood experiences and growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The first incident he shares is Easter 1964.  He is dressed up in his new jacket and is excited about giving his Easter speech before the church congregation.  His happiness is quickly shattered when his father Ben rips apart his new jacket, verbally demeans him and calls him a sissy.  This is just one of the scenes he shares about life at the hands of his physically abusive father.  He spends much of his childhood in fear of Ben, wondering how a father can be so cruel to his own son.  He becomes cognizant of his differences and believes there is something terribly wrong when it comes to his physical make-up,which sets the stage for a low self-esteem and a need to begin pretending.

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted takes us from the time Harris is a child through his young adult life.  He shares his fears, his desire to be in a loving relationship, and the realization of his preference for men over women; despite his attempts otherwise.  Through his candid and honest recount of those times in his life, we learn of his fight with depression, the abusive relationships he’s had the misfortune to suffer through and the make-believe world he built around himself to not only hide his poor upbringing, but also his sexual preference.

His job after college working with IBM and the success he attained in a position that not many other black men held, showed his tenacity and perseverance to attain the dreams of success he put in place from childhood in Arkansas.  In spite of this, Harris was often left with a broken heart falling into depression, alcoholism and the continued closet-lifestyle of a gay, black man unable to reveal his true self.

While reading this insightful and poignant book, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, I was saddened to learn that an author whom I revere, suffered such hardship and heartache. However, it brought me joy to read of the important and valuable lessons he chosen to pass on to others.  In his memoir, we’re able to see Mr. Harris in a more human light; no longer comparing him to his characters.  The lessons he shares should do well in showing others the importance of appreciating yourself, being strong in your faith, valuing friendships, being secure in who you are as a person—even if it is different from the role society tries to place you, and knowing that your life is yours to live without pretense or being ashamed of your past.  I’ll sum it up by saying…the brokenhearted can survive, dream, and move on to claim not only success, but happiness. 

Tee C. Royal is the founder of RAWSISTAZ.com, an online book club for both readers and writers interested in AA literature.  She is also the editor of several African American literary newsletters and resides in the Atlanta, GA area.