Author E. Lynn Harris, who offered a glimpse into the secret lives of closeted gay black men, died last night at 54, the AP reports. His publicist says the cause is unknown, and that Harris suddenly took ill just days ago. An autopsy will be performed next week. Harris was the author of 11 books, 10 of which landed on the New York Times bestseller list.
“He was a pioneering voice within the black LGBT community but also resonated with mainstream communities, regardless of race and sexual orientation,” one gay advocate says. His debut novel, 1994’s Invisible Life, told of the tribulations of growing up black and gay, but Harris was not yet out when it was published. “People would often ask, ‘Is this book about you?’ I didn’t want to talk about that,” he said. But he slowly opened up and became a prominent voice.