Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir 

Wednesday, Aug 27 2003
By E. Lynn Harris

Doubleday (2003), $22.95

E. Lynn Harris, author of the critically acclaimed "Invisible Life" series of novels about being a black gay man, is widely considered one of the most important African-American writers of both his genre and his generation. Harris' fictions about discovering one's sexuality in the homophobic South while searching for a meaningful relationship have been understood to reflect directly on his own experiences. What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, Harris' ninth book, is the memoir that removes any question marks about his inspiration -- and places an exclamation point at the end of the sentence.

Brokenhearted is the engaging story of Harris' life, from the pain of growing up feeling "different" to the abuse he suffered, physically and mentally, for being unable to fit into a world where homophobia ruled. Harris learned early to hide his pain, and for most of the book he's coming to terms with his sexuality and the loneliness he believes it caused. As in Harris' novels, his voice is masterful here; he has an extraordinary way of reaching the reader and involving him in the story, for better or worse -- as when Harris finds out that his physically abusive father isn't related to him (which left me feeling a maternal need to protect him). Giving us the kind of detailed view of his life that we never get of our own, Harris doesn't stumble over or edit the most revealing parts -- such as a graphic description of his suicide attempt -- as others might have done. I only wish he had said more about the work he put into self-publishing his first book, Invisible Life, which he originally sold from the back of his car. I once heard him tell the story, and found it a fascinating and courageous adventure.

Still, Brokenhearted is well worth reading, and as with Harris' other titles, at the end I was clamoring for more (the book closes with the publication of Invisible Life and Harris' acknowledgment of his own clinical depression). Fortunately, the "brokenhearted" Harris is only 47, so there's sure to be more from this extremely visible author in the future.

About The Author

Andrea Renee Goode


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"