Harris shares his life story in an eagerly awaited memoir
E. Lynn Harris, author of such popular novels as Invisible Life, Abide With Me and last year’s A Love of My Own, shifts gears and writes about his own life in What Becomes of the Brokenhearted (Doubleday, $22), which will be published this month. Deborah Gregory, an Essence contributing writer, recently spoke with Harris about his life, his career and his struggle with depression.
How difficult was the transition from fiction to memoir?
Writing my story has been painful. I’ve overcome depression, I was physically abused by my stepfather, I was raised by a single mother. And I’m a member of a race that considers my sexuality inappropriate. But there’s a message in my memoir for anyone who has suffered from lack of self-esteem or sought love in all the wrong places.
What do you think caused your depression?
For much of my adult life, I was not true to myself. I was pretending not to be gay. In the 1980’s, when I was a sales executive at IBM, I traveled a lot and made good money, but I wasn’t happy. A few years later I felt so empty and confused that I finally reached out for professional help. Seeing a therapist gave me the strength to deal honestly with my sexuality. It also renewed my interest in writing. Now I’m truly happy. My life is filled with family, friends and work that I love.
How has writing changed you?
It gave me something that was missing. At 13, I wrote an essay and submitted it to my high-school newspaper. Joining the staff boosted my confidence. I finally found something important I could do. I realized that writing made me happy.