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What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir

Review

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir



E. Lynn Harris's novels about black middle class homosexual and
heterosexual life have captured the fancy of thousands of readers.
His success is remarkable because his honesty about gay, bisexual
and "confused" African American men hasn't turned off women readers
and has sparked discussion about male secrecy, sex and lies.

Many of his readers, myself among them, have wondered about the
relationship between Harris and Raymond Tyler, the protagonist of
his first novel and some of his subsequent work. Because the novels
are written in such a straightforward, conversational tone, it's
easy to imagine that the author is telling his own thinly-veiled
story.

With his new memoir, WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED, Harris both
dispels and confirms the questions about whether or not Raymond is
really his doppelganger. As Harris tells it, Raymond's perfect
middle class upbringing with loving parents is a far cry from his
humbler and, often, more cruel beginnings. But the character's life
experiences closely mirror those of the author's adult life,
including their search for love, sex, and a path out of
depression.

Like his popular novels, Harris's memoir is a page-turner that
feels more like a long, confessional letter or an all-night
conversation. Its principle merits are as a record of the modern
gay black man's experience and an insider text for his legions of
fans.

Having read all of Harris's novels, I was very curious about the
who's who aspect of his memoir and pleased to meet some of the
real-life people who inspired his fictional characters. However,
his conversational style was sometimes disappointing because the
memoir occasionally fails to fully explore various experiences. And
while it seems he wrote some of the last pages earlier this year,
Harris chooses to keep some secrets to himself. Unfortunately for
the reader, he only hints at the happiness he has found in the last
decade and keeps those tales undercover.

His honesty about battling depression and "lying Lynn" are also
important aspects of his story. As his novels forced women to face
facts about male sexuality and gave gay black men their own serial,
his memoir will help raise the veil from the issue of
depression.

Harris's first nonfiction work will likely be another book club and
talkabout hit. Hopefully, it will also open hearts and minds as his
novels have for the last decade.

Reviewed by Bernadette Adams Davis on January 24, 2011

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir
by E. Lynn Harris

  • Publication Date: July 13, 2004
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0385495064
  • ISBN-13: 9780385495066