Just as I am: A Novel

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Press: Time Warner Paperbacks (July 2, 1998)
Author Name:Harris, E. Lynn


Beauty queen turned actress Nicole Springer is recovering from the deaths of her father and her best friend, and is healing after the discovery that her boyfriend Raymond Tyler was having an affair - with another man. 
Her path to happiness leads to a starring role in Broadway and a relationship with a white Jewish doctor.
But the past cannot be forgotten.
Though Raymond's career as a lawyer has taken him south to Atlanta, he must return to New York City when their mutual friend Kyle falls sick with AIDS.
Continuing the soap-opera saga begun in INVISIBLE LIFE, E.
Lynn Harris's new novel deals with themes of race, family and sexuality with wit, humour and compassion

From Publishers Weekly

Set in a black upper-middle class milieu, this unappealing potboiler attempts to detail the lives and loves of an intersecting group of overachievers with a variety of sexual appetites. 
Harris ( Invisible Life ) has managed to capture the material aspects of the good life and the East Coast black gay scene, but he has also propped up his labored prose on a well-intentioned scaffold of gay activist issues.
The result is more checklist than novel: when a character is introduced, a demographic stereotype is quickly outlined to elicit the reader's mechanical response.
Successful, handsome and bisexual, African American sports lawyer Raymond Tyler Jr.
has just moved to Atlanta from New York.
But he's plagued by problems.
His respected and politically active Alabama family think he's straight.
He's hot for a supposedly hetero colleague at the law firm who seems to be coming on to him, but who fears being exposed.
His newest client, a sexy star NFL quarterback and arrogant troublemaker, wants a little action too and doesn't mind embarrassing Tyler to get it.
Meanwhile, Tyler's former lover, a New York actress, is dealing with a rich, pushy and cartoonishly possessive lover.
Melodramatic and banal, this book is soap opera material.
Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This trilogy follows Raymond Tyler Jr. 
from his college days through his years as a successful young attorney.
It is in college that he encounters his first homosexual experience, at a time when he has a steady girlfriend.
When he takes his first job in New York City, he settles into a bisexual lifestyle but becomes engaged to Nicole, the other central figure in the series, who ambitiously pursues a show business career while searching for the perfect man.
Raymond ultimately chooses a gay lifestyle but unlike some of his friends, who are comfortable with their sexual preference, he reflects on his choice.
Harris (And This Too Shall Pass) has created a body of diverse characters, a group of friends and family members who admirably demonstrate a continuity of love and support.
This is a work about young middle-class black people who, regardless of sexual preference, are looking for the perfect partner.
For those who are gay or bisexual, there is the added pressure of disapproval from many corners.
Michael Boatman's reading in all three novels is dynamic.
He ably portrays the author's colorful characters, while Brenda Braxton takes the role of Nicole in Just As I Am.
The story moves along and keeps the listener absorbed.
The three tapes would make an interesting choice for adult fiction collections.ACatherine Swenson, Norwich Univ., Northfield, VT Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The saga of buppy sports attorney Raymond and his almost-love, aspiring black actress-singer Nicole, combines the soap opera elements of spiritual and identity crises, sex, death, sexual assault, cheating hearts, and lots of ruefulness and flings them against the backdrop of Raymond's gay-bisexual lifestyle within the African American community. 
Despite its mega-chunks of daytime-TV dialogue unbroken by any narrative or description of the speakers; despite its characters' propensity to sigh and ponder the difficulties of life while enjoying barely credible, nearly effortless access to funds; and despite its unfortunate habit of interrupting the action, such as it is, for fly-on-the-wall peeks at the main characters' psychotherapy sessions, the long novel does have its saving qualities.
For sandwiched, too infrequently, between layers of stilted conversation is its redeeming element--some freewheeling, black dialect that captures well the tones and nuances of feelings between longtime friends, onetime lovers, and anytime sex partners.
Whitney Scott

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

The stand-alone sequel to Harris's self-published first novel Invisible Life (1992), which Anchor is also reissuing next March. 
Both works are saccharine treatments of the lives, loves, and deaths (from AIDS) of middle-class blacks--straight, gay, and bisexual.
The two leads, Raymond and Nicole, narrate alternate chapters.
In the earlier novel, the pair's love affair was doomed by Ray's bisexuality.
Now both are (temporarily) celibate.
Lawyer Ray, in Atlanta, has the hots for his buddy Jared (a mystery man, sex- wise); actress Nicole, in New York, has an attentive admirer in doctor/Broadway investor Pierce, who's white and Jewish.
When he proposes (on his knees) in a Manhattan restaurant, Nicole accepts, then feels guilty for not loving him enough just as Ray, down south, is feeling ``dirty and empty'' after having stood up fine- looking, upstanding Jared to have sex with fine-looking but messed- up pro-footballer Basil.
Our leads are good people who pray a lot and spend time on the couch, but between them they can't generate a plot, so Harris fills the vacuum by having Ray's friend Kyle come down with AIDS.
Nice-guy Ray flies to New York for the months-long deathbed vigil, while his nice-guy boss keeps him on salary and nice-guy Jared arranges an 11th-hour reunion between Kyle and his long-lost father.
Kyle dies.
Nicole listens to her heart, breaks off with Pierce, and falls in love with Jared (relax, he's as straight as they come) while Ray also finds true love with old frat brother Trent.
Only when sassy Kyle is dishing the dirt with his ``girlfriends'' Nicole and Delaney does Harris's novel flicker into life, bringing momentary relief from a plastic world where even the condoms come wrapped in gold.
-- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP.
All rights reserved.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


*'Harris is a wonderful writer. 
His romantic scenes, whether between men and women or men and men, are always touching SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

From the Publisher

"Just As I Am more than delivers on  the promise of Invisible Life. 
Harris gives his readers a refreshing view of African-American achievement, a touching characterization of a man living with AIDS, and a sensitive depiction of gay/straight friendships that is much to be hoped for in the world outside the book's pages." -- The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Author

Dear Reader:You've played an important part in making one of my dreams come true, and I want to start by thanking you from the bottom of my heart. 
Your purchase of this special edition of Invisible Life will also assist in helping to realize the dreams of emerging writers through the E.
Lynn Harris Charitable Foundation.
(I'll tell you more about that later.) Right now, I want to tell you how Invisible Life came to be, and what some of the characters might be doing today.I started writing Invisible Life in February of 1991 during a difficult time in my life, both personally and professionally.
I was renting a room from a friend in Lithonia, Georgia, and was spending over eight hours a day writing my novel while listening to Barbra Streisand's Yentl soundtrack and Aretha Franklin.
I had always dreamed of being a writer, ever since I had first learned the power of words at the Little Rock Public Library, where I spent almost every Saturday reading books that transported me to other lands, far from the small clapboard house on East Twenty-first.
But as a colored boy growing up in Little Rock, dreams didn't always come true.The only creative writing I did during my youth were letters to my mother on birthdays and holidays when I couldn't afford gifts.
Even today my mama says those letters are among her favorite gifts from me.
I never wrote short stories or poems as a child, but I did read almost everything I could get my hands on.
One of my favorite books is Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
It is important to me for several reasons.
First, Ms.
Angelou was also from Arkansas, and she was the first real writer I would meet and have the opportunity to talk with.
Second, I shared with her my secret desire to be an author, and she encouraged me to write every day even if it was only one word.
Great advice that I didn't follow for years.The idea for Invisible Life developed during the AIDS crisis.
AIDS was finally hitting home in the African American community.
I had lost several friends to the disease and discovered several more were in the final stages.
I also found out that African American women were the fastest-growing group of AIDS sufferers, and I started to worry about the women in my life: my close female friends, my sisters, my aunt and mother.
I felt helpless and wanted to do something.
So I turned to writing letters.I wrote letters to several of my friends inflicted with the disease.
These letters recounted our friendships, the good times and the bad.
I didn't want these people I loved so dearly to leave this planet without knowing how I felt.
Putting pen to paper seemed like the perfect way to convey my feelings.A week before he died, my dear friend, Richard, told me how much my letters and friendship meant to him.
He told me I had a talent for writing and that I should pursue it.
"People have no idea who we are.
So you need to tell our story.
Let them know we're their brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins, and friends." I promised him I would write, but not for one moment did I truly believe I could keep such a promise.
A couple of years after making this promise to Richard, I finally had the courage to at least attempt writing.Invisible Life was originally called No Life for Sissies, and was told from a third-person point of view.
The thought of writing such material, using the pronoun I, seriously frightened me.
The main character was Courtney Tyler, a young man from New York who's in Arkansas for a family reunion and notices a beautiful young lady who's being crowned Miss Arkansas.
Several months later he meets his dream girl, Nicole Springer.
On my third day of writing, I made my first major decision and changed Courtney's name to Raymond.
The name Raymond narrowly beat Tyrone and Dwight.
I wanted a name that sounded proud, powerful, and masculine.After writing a couple of chapters I mustered up enough courage to show them to a friend whose judgment I trusted.
She thought I was definitely onto something, and gave me some valuable advice.
She said, "You have to become Raymond to tell his story." So despite my fear, I tore up the three chapters and started over.
This time I told the story from a first-person point of view, as if I, E.
Lynn Harris were Raymond Winston Tyler, Jr.I can't tell you the fear I felt the first time someone asked me if I was Raymond.
Of course I answered "no." But then I started receiving letters from young men and women telling me how much this novel had helped them and I realized how important it was that I be forthcoming about the similarities between Raymond and myself.
Every time I answered this question I became stronger and my courage grew.I decided to rewrite the novel with a different premise.
What would happen if two men, close friends from college who had shared an intimate sexual past, bump into each other by chance on the eve of one of the men's marriage? This revised first chapter became Chapter Three in the final book, the chapter where Raymond bumps into Kelvin and his bride-to-be Candance in a New York department store.Another friend loved this chapter but wanted to know how Raymond and Kelvin met.
I quickly learned that as a novelist, I needed to be able to answer any question the reader might ask.
So I drew from my own experience; something I learned was not uncommon for first-time novelists.Several years earlier, I had a dream about a man I'd seen at a fraternity party.
I did not know his name, or if he was a student at the university.
A week later, I literally bumped into this handsome stranger.
Our meeting led to my first serious relationship with a man.
I was a senior in college.Even though I respected my friend Dellanor's advice about the importance of "becoming Raymond" I wanted Raymond to be the man I sometimes wanted to be.
I wanted him to be attractive and athletic; the kind of man both men and women would be strongly attracted to.
I wanted Raymond to come from a strong two-parent household.
I did not.
I wanted him to be middle class.
I'm not from a middle-class background and at the time I was writing I was on the last of my unemployment checks.
I thought Raymond should be a lawyer.
I was briefly interested in a career as a lawyer, not because I had a burning desire to practice law, but because I thought it was a respected career and I would make a lot of money.
It would also give me an entree into the middle class.
And since I knew the novel would be controversial, I wanted to separate myself from Raymond as much as possible.
If people rejected the novel, they would be rejecting Raymond, not me.
Once I knew who Raymond was, I started writing again, this time without fear.When it came to creating my heroine, I didn't look any further than one of my best friends, Lencola Sullivan, a beautiful former Miss Arkansas and Miss America runner-up.
Lencola and I were never involved with each other but we still share a wonderful friendship that I treasure more and more each day.
Nicole can't hold a candle to Lencola, although Lencola loves the fact that I used some of her wonderful innocent and caring qualities to create the shell of one of my most lovable creations.Kyle, the character readers seem to love the most, is a composite of five people I had the honor of being friends with while I lived in New York-in the 1980s.
I actually met a couple of them in the Nickel Bar during our regular Friday evening get-togethers.
In the eighties, New York was filled with festive bars and engaging characters who could dance, drink and spout witty one-liners all at the same time.
These people became my mentors and tour guides and helped me navigate my way through a world that was as foreign as Spain to me, a man from Little Rock, Arkansas.
But there was one major difference between my new friends and that character that would become Kyle: none of them were ever addicted to drugs or worked as call boys.
They were all college-educated and held professional positions.
I just wanted to add a little spice to the novel.John Basil Henderson, my most asked-about character, is the man people love to hate.
Although I'm convinced more people feel sorry for him than actually hate him.
I based his character on a man I met while I was living in Chicago.
This man moved through my life like a speeding bullet, remaining like Basil a total mystery.
Since the success of my novels, I have met several Basil clones.I finished the first draft of Invisible Life a little after the Fourth of July 1991.
I was both excited and nervous.
Although my family and friends were supportive, very few knew what the novel was about.
At that point, I had never had a conversation with my mother about my sexuality.
But a reaction from one of the most important people in my life led me to believe that I had something powerful and healing with Invisible Life.My Aunt Gee, my mother's sister, was the only person in my family with whom I discussed my personal life.
I often shared the joy and pain of being gay.
I called Aunt Gee when I was dumped by my first love.
And she was the first person in my family to receive a copy of my manuscript.
Why did I choose my aunt, rather than a supportive sibling or cousin? I valued Aunt Gee's opinion and I knew I would need her to prepare my mom for what to expect when I came back to Arkansas for my first book signing.A few days after I gave my aunt the novel, she surprised me by calling around midnight.
This was strange because Aunt Gee is usually in bed by nine.
She said, "Oh, baby, I'm so sorry.
I didn't know what you have gone through.
This book is wonderful! It's going to help a lot of people understand."Through my tears of absolute joy I thanked my aunt, a strong Christian lady, who had always supported me, but also held out hope that prayer would change my orientation.
Her feelings, I think, are similar to what a lot of mothers and fathers feel about their gay sons and daughters.
They worry much more about how the world will treat their children than they do about a family's possible feelings of shame.After a couple more drafts, I eagerly sent out my manuscript (with wonderful cover letters) to publishers and agents via Federal Express.
Weeks later my novel would be returned, the pages so in place I knew it had not been read.
Lying neatly on top would be a nice "thanks, but no thanks" rejection letter.
At the same: time friends were reading the novel and enjoying it, but I wasn't sure if I could really trust their opinions.
I got helpful editing suggestions from close female friends, Tracey Huntley and Janis Lunon, even though I had yet to discuss my sexuality with them.
Not only did they help make the novel stronger, they gave me clues about who the readers of my book would be.I started to seek out what I called blind readers, people who didn't know me, or what the book was about.
While the rejection letters continued to depress me, the response from my blind readers (mostly African American women) encouraged me tremendously.These everyday readers gave me the courage to self-publish the novel, when it looked like the commercial publishing world wasn't ready for my story.
I was warned that self-publishing a novel would be a turnoff to major publishers, and if I wanted a long-term writing career I should wait until the right editor discovered my novel.
But I couldn't wait.
I had discovered my calling; my mission for living.I have often said writing saved my life.
In many ways it did.
Self-publishing a novel is one of the most difficult experiences in the world, but to me it was also a great joy.
During the first month of the publication of Invisible Life it was not uncommon for me to deliver a novel right to the front doorsteps of a reader who had heard about the novel from someone else.
A young man, K'Lavell Grayson, started telling his clients about a book that they had to read but couldn't purchase in a bookstore.
Before I knew it, K'Lavell was selling more than twenty copies of Invisible Life a week.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Well, not really.
I spent the next two years peddling my book everywhere I went, hitting every African American beauty shop I could find.
I did the Black Expo circuit and found out that people weren't always so certain they wanted to read a novel like Invisible Life.
I even went to house parties from Atlanta to Philadelphia! When I traveled to cities outside of Atlanta, I had only one goal in mind--to sell enough books to get home! Sometimes I did and other times I would simply seek out the nearest beauty salon and sell the balance of my books to complete my mission.
For the first time in my life I was starting to believe that with hard work, friends, family, and an abiding faith in prayer anything was possible.Now, some five years later, I can honestly say I have the best job in the world.
In what other profession do you get to meet people from all different backgrounds, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, male and female, gay and straight, who feel they know you from reading your work? How many jobs allow you to change the way people feel about themselves and other people? Looking back on my youth in Little Rock, I realize I had no idea of the healing power of words.
But as an adult I've discovered writing is the one medium that's so personal, so one on one, that it's impossible not to understand the power of words.
All the reader has to do is open his or her heart and mind.
I have often said it is not my intention to change the world with my writing, but I would be lying if I said it isn't my hope to change people's hearts and the way we feel about each other.Enough of my New Age thinking.
What about the characters in Invisible Life who didn't find their way into my second novel, Just As I Am or my new novel, Abide with Me? Kelvin, Raymond's first love, is now married and living and teaching in Minnesota.
He's having a difficult time since he just revealed to his wife of five years that he's HIV-positive.
With the new drugs currently available, Kelvin remains in good health, and his wife, Mandy, has decided to stick with him.
Quinn, Raymond's married lover, is still married and still keeping his wife in the dark.
Quinn knows a couple of men who are married as well, and sometimes they take long weekend fishing trips.JJ, or Janelle, is still married to Bernard and has two children, a little boy and girl.
She recently got her master's degree from the University of North Carolina and has just opened up a day-care center in Charlotte.
Bernard has recently started college and has dreams of becoming an accountant.So there you have it.
I'd like to end this letter by once again thanking you for all your wonderful support.
Keep those cards and letters coming, and I will keep writing novels you'll enjoy reading.E.
Lynn HarrisFor information regarding the E.
Lynn Harris Better Days Foundation, forward your request to:P.O.
Box 78832Atlanta, Georgia 30309

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

Lynn Harris's blend of rich, romantic storytelling and controversial contemporary issues like race and bisexuality have found an enthusiastic and diverse audience across America.
Readers celebrate the arrival in paperback of his second novel, "Just As I Am, which picks up where "Invisible Life left off, introducing Harris's appealing and authentic characters to a new set of joys, conflicts, and choices.
Raymond, a young black lawyer from the South, struggles to come to terms with his sexuality and with the grim reality of AIDS.
Nicole, an aspiring singer/actress, experiences frustration in both her career and in her attempts to find a genuine love relationship.
Both characters share an eclectic group of friends who challenge them, and the reader, to look at themselves and the world around thern through different eyes.
By portraying Nicole's and Raymond's joys, as well as their pain, Harris never ceases to remind us that life, like love, is about self-acceptance.
In this vivid portrait of contemporary black life, with all its pressures and the complications of bisexuality, AIDS, and racism, Harris confirms a faith in the power of love -- love of all kinds -- to thrill and to heal, which will warm the hearts of readers everywhere.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

E Lynn Harris was a computer sales executive with IBM and a graduate of the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. 
INVISIBLE LIFE and JUST AS I AM were nominated for Outstanding African-American Novel by the American Booksellers Association Blackboard List.
He died in July 2009.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Raymond Jr.I imagine the world was created beneath a canopy of silence. 
Perfect silence.
While in my own personal silence I would create the world I dreamed of.
A world full of love and absent of life's harsh realities.
A world where all dreams would come true.
A place called Perfect.
But I've come to realize that some dreams you have to give up.
I live in a world that promises to protect me but will not catch me when I fall.
In this life I have fallen many times.
From these falls I have learned many lessons.
Lessons involving lust, loss, love, and life.
Lessons that hit as hard as an unannounced summer thunderstorm, sudden and sometimes destructive.One of my life's unexpected lessons occurred during my senior year in college.
It was on the first Friday in October that my brain released a secret it had struggled to protect throughout my adolescence.
I learned on that day that my sexual orientation was not a belief or choice, but a fact of my birth.
And just like the color of my skin and eyes, these things could not be changed, at least not permanently.My name is Raymond Winston Tyler, Jr., and I am a thirty-two-soon-to-be-thirty-three-year-old, second-generation attorney.
The son of attorney Raymond Winston Tyler and Marlee Allen Tyler, an elementary school teacher, and big brother to fourteen-year-old Kirby.
I had a happy childhood, growing up deeply ensconced in the black middle class.
A child of the integrated New South, born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, a city that in the past was known more for church bombing than being the bedrock of college football.I returned home after law school and several years of successful practice in a large New York firm.
About a year ago I moved two hours south to Atlanta, after a two-year stint of running my pops's law firm while he followed his lifelong dream and became a member of the Alabama State Senate.Atlanta struck me as a vibrant city.
A cross between country and cosmopolitan, a city where popular eateries still took personal checks, that is with a valid driver's license.
A city consumed with sports and the dream of becoming the Motown of the nineties.
Atlanta was a city on the move and even though it didn't have the flash and energy of New York City, it was more conducive to my life than Birmingham.
Now don't get me wrong, I love my family and my birthplace, but I knew it was time to move on and continue my search for Perfect.I was living in a trendy Buckhead condo and working for Battle, Carroll & Myers, a black, female-owned law firm specializing in entertamment and sports law.
I had originally moved to Atlanta with the understanding that I would go to work for the city government, but a few days before I was to start, I received word that a hiring freeze had been put into effect.
I later found out from a friend of my father that the reason for the freeze was because someone in the mayor's offfice wanted the position promised to me to go to an openly gay, black attorney.
Now wasn't that just the shit.
My Columbia Law School education and major New York firm experience didn't amount to anything.
Just my sexual orientation and then only if I was willing to make it public, which I wasn't.
So with the help of my good friend Jared Stovall, I went to work for Battle, Carroll & Myers.
My position created an ironic dilemma.
I was hired in part because of my love and knowledge of college sports.
The firm was actively seeking college athletes about to turn professional and it was my job to convince these young men, mostly black and from black colleges, that the firm would be looking out for their best interests.
I had just entered a period in my life when I was practicing celibacy and trying very hard to put the male body out of my mind, but now I was constantly in steamy locker rooms with some of the most beautiful bodies in the world.Our firm also represented a number of rappers and singers, but Gilliam Battle, the founder and only remaining partner, handled the majority of them along with the recording executives.
Though an extremely smart woman, Gilliam didn't know jack about sports, other than the fact that pro athletes made a great deal of money and didn't have the slightest idea of what to do with it.
Gilliam not only assembled a top team of attorneys but also a staff of investment counselors, speech coaches, doctors, and whatever it took to make sure our clients represented us as well as we represented them.My social life in Atlanta was in a lot of respects similar to life in Birmingham, back in the closet.
Atlanta did have a visible gay community but it was visibly white.
I wasn't forced into the closet, it was just a choice I'd made out of respect for my family, especially my pops.
My parents knew about and tried to accept my sexuality, but the fact that they knew didn't mean they wanted to discuss it around the dinner table or with my little brother.
So like my parents, I too decided to ignore my sexuality and went back to my old straight act the minute I left New York.
Talk about your safe sex.
Besides, men were basically dogs--couldn't tell the truth if their life depended on it.
And now your life does depend on it.
Trust me I know.
In my past I too have been guilty of not being totally truthful, either with men or women.
But men never expect honesty.
Women, on the other hand, say that they want the truth; but then they act like they don't hear you when you try to tell it like it is.
Sometimes in the heat of passion men are not the only ones who let their sex do the thinking.Currently there is not a female in my life besides my mother and Gilliam, but there was a man, a good man.
I'd met Jared Taylor Stovall in Birmingham when he'd come to run my pops's political campaign.
Jared was a political consultant who had been highly recommended when Pops's victory was in doubt.
Jared became a member of our family, practically moving into my parents' home during the race.
Jared actually convinced me to move to Atlanta by offering me a place to stay and remarking with a devilish smile, "I want my niggah around me all the time."Jared was quite handsome in a rugged sort of way.
His looks inspired confidence--tall and strapping, six foot three and two hundred and ten pounds of slightly bowlegged, biscuit-brown masculinity.
Large bittersweet brown eyes, and a smile that would have lit up the Atlanta skyline.
He was as smart as he was good-looking, finishing at the top of his class at Morris Brown College and later getting an MBA at Clark-Atlanta University.
He was the oldest child and the only son of a devoted mother who had raised him and his two sisters alone in southwest Atlanta.
Jared never mentioned his father.I hadn't shared my sexuality with Jared mainly because it had never come up.
I hadn't determined if Jared himself was gay or straight, just as I couldn't tell if his closely cropped hair was naturally curly or mildly relaxed.
Only when I felt lonely did Jared's sexuality cross my mind.
Sleeping alone with just my pillows for comfort created an insatiable void in my life.
Our relationship wavered between brotherly love and romantic love, though it was a romance without sex.
A romance in my mind only, at least as far as I knew.I'm what you would call a romantic, a severe romantic, yet lasting romance has eluded me.
I grew up believing that you really fell in love only once and that that love would last forever, like in the movies.
I now know that most people consider themselves lucky if they fall in love once and have that love returned.
But I wasn't even that lucky; the truth of my present situation was a love life that consisted only of daydreams about Jared and listening to R&B songs about love dreamed but never attained.
I longed for a love that would make me feel like the soothing love songs that caused an involuntary smile to linger not only on my face but in my heart.
A love life that was an eternal "quiet storm."My love life had included a quartet of lovers--two men, Kelvin and Quinn, sandwiched between my first love, Sela, and Nicole, the woman who had broken my heart because I hadn't told the truth.
A lie that sent me packing back to Birmingham, back into the closet, and into my present celibate state.Now even though I hate labels, I still consider myself bisexual.
A sexual mulatto.
I mean how else could I explain how members of the singing group En Vogue and certain members of the Atlanta Braves aroused my sexual desires with equal measure?I didn't feel comfortable in a totally gay environment or in a totally straight environment.
I often wondered where the term gay came from.
Lonely would better describe the life for me.
There was absolutely nothing gay about being a black man and living life attracted to members of your own sex in this imperfect world I called home.
For now a place called Perfect remained a dream.NicoleWhen I was in the fourth grade, the boy who sat behind me would always pull my hair any time he thought no one was looking.
He would really get on my nerves.
One day instead of pulling my braids he slipped a note in my hand.
It read, "Will you go with me? Yes...No...Maybe.
Please circle one."Since I didn't know where he wanted me to go, I placed the note in my knee socks and took it home to my daddy, asking him what I should do.
He gave me some advice I've always tried to live by.
"Listen to your heart," he said.From my daddy's words of wisdom I realized that my heart has a voice.
It speaks to me with each beat.
My heart protects me, shielding me from the things I can't see or lack the courage to face.
My heart knows who I am and who I'll turn out to be.My name is Nicole Marie Springer, former beauty queen, Broadway actress, and sometime word processor.
Thirty years of age, but that's twenty-five in show biz years.
Born and raised in Sweet Home, Arkansas, right outside of Little Rock, population five hundred and eighty-five, and one stoplight.
Daughter of cotton farmers James and Idella Springer, older sister of Michael.
A small-town girl with big-city goals.They say in every life some rain must fall, but I've just come through a couple of years dominated by thunderstorms.
Right now my life is cloudy and overcast, anxiously awaiting the sun.In the last three years I lost my beloved father to a sudden heart attack, my best friend Candance to AIDS, and Raymond, the brief love of my life, to another man.The death of my daddy, though sudden, was not quite a surprise.
He was seveny-seven years old and had spent his twilight years defying his doctor by not taking his high blood pressure medication.
But the loss of my college sorority sister and closest confidante was devastating.Candance, the first person I had met at Spelman College, was not only beautiful and brilliant, but was just months away from her dream of becoming a physician.
Her sudden illness hit like a ton of bricks.
Candance, who told me hours after our initial meeting that she was going to become a doctor, marry, and have two children.
She lived to see only one of those dreams come true, marrying Kelvin on her deathbed.
Kelvin Ellis, the suspected culprit of Candance's demise.
Kelvin, the same man who introduced me to Raymond who I fell quickly and deeply in love with, the love I thought my heart had led me to.
I never found out if Kelvin was in fact the man in Raymond's secret life.
I was too distraught to even think about it.After the breakup with Raymond, I began to doubt my own sexuality.
Had I not been enough woman to satisfy him, or had I been too much? I spent night after night crying myself to sleep, praying that my daddy and Candance would send down some advice, since I could no longer count on my heart.I questioned how Candance and I could have fallen in love with men who were so incapable of loving us completely.
Men who would never give the one thing they could give for free.
Honesty.My relationship with Raymond did slap me into reality.
I realized that things were not always what they seemed.
I now questioned any man I was interested in dating, asking if he was gay or bisexual or if he planned either in the future.
Though I couldn't always detect the truth, I got a lot of interesting responses, including one guy who threw wine in my face and then stormed out of the restaurant we were in.
The wine tasted like a "yes" to me.
There was also the guy who when I posed the question to him, politely excused himself from the dinner table, went into his bedroom, and returned minutes later, standing before me butterball, butt-naked with a certain part of his anatomy at attention.
"Does this answer your question?" he smiled.
I wanted to respond with a song I loved, "Is That All There Is?" But I know how men are about their...well, you know.These dates from hell led me to my current beau, Dr.
Pierce Gessler.
In a decade where everybody was looking for safe sex, I was searching for safe love.
With Pierce, I was able to maintain my self-imposed celibacy vow and still have a suitable escort when needed.
Oh yes, Pierce is white and Jewish.
So much for my dreams of marrying a BMW (Black Man Working) or a BMS (Black Man Straight).
But Pierce was wonderful, supportive, and loving, without a lot of luggage.
He helped me out in the lean times when I was getting more calls from temp agencies than my agent.
An agent whom I later fired when I heard him tell a casting person at a soap opera that I was a dark-skinned Robin Givens.Pierce was always telling me how beautiful I was.
It made me feel good.
No man besides my daddy had ever constantly told me I was beautiful.
Raymond told me a couple of times but his honesty was in question.
And even though I had won several beauty pageants and was third runner-up to Miss America, I never considered myself beautiful.
When I looked in the mirror I saw a face enhanced by Fashion Fair makeup, and hair, even though it was my own, permed with the help of a colorful box of chemicals.In addition to Pierce, I was also blessed with two wonderful friends, Delaney and Kyle.
I first met Delaney at an audition and again later when she was doing hair and makeup for a show I was appearing in.
My big Broadway starring role that closed after thirty-one performances.
Delaney was very beautiful, a talented dancer and a just a little bit crazy.
She made me smile and take a look at life from a more upbeat view.
Kyle, Raymond's best friend, had become a friend through default and, in a selfish way, our friendship allowed me to keep in contact with Raymond without really being in contact.
Kyle was handsome in a cute little boy sorta way.
Cornbread brown skin, deep-set brown eyes, thin black curly hair that was starting to recede, and a smile that could dilute darkness.
Kyle was openly gay and didn't pull any punches.
You knew where he stood.
I could deal with that.
He was my first openly gay friend, and he kept me in stitches with his quick wit.My career in New York, similar to my love life, had been one of highs and lows.
Moments when I didn't feel very successful, times when I would have given anything to be sitting on the porch back home watching my dad eating sardines and crackers while I munched on strawberry Now 'n' Laters.
After signing with another agent, I

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

This new audio adaptation of Harris's novel, a vivid and at times unsettling story of a man's coming to terms with AIDS, features two narrators. 
But, unlike many cases, this isn't merely a gimmick here.
Boatman, a television actor whose credits include the popular series "Spin City," and noted Broadway performer Braxton combine their talents to lift this moving and memorable story off the page.
The novel, which was named Novel of the Year by the Blackboard African-American Bestsellers, Inc., is multilayered, and this abridgment strips away some of the layers.
But it's well worth listening to the excellent performances and Harris's intelligent handling of a difficult subject.
(c) AudioFile, Portland, Maine

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Gay & Lesbian,Literature & Fiction,Fiction,Gay,African American,United States

 PDF Download And Online Read: Just as I am: A Novel



Comment List (Total:15)

  •     An amazing book instantly hooks the the reader
  •     I'm gonna make this short. The book is AMAZING! I picked it up, & I couldn't put it down. As soon as I start reading I forgot about everything else. Also, I'm one of those people that ends up figuring everything out about a story; however, with this book it kept my on the edge of my seat with unsuspected tilts & turns. In addition to that, the book was uplifting & kind of inspirational. This book cover's so many basis & it will def keep your attention. If you are thinking about getting this novel, don't think no more, GET IT!
  •     Another enjoyable novel by E. Lynn Harris. Love the story line (always kept my interest) and the developed, multi-dimensional characters. Am looking forward to the next book in the series.
  •     This is a REALLY good book with a lot of lessons to be learned from the characters. There are happy and sad times during the book. I recommend it!
  •     Great!
  •     Just As I Am is the third of E. Lynn Harris books I have read. While Basketball Jones was exciting and I totally did not see the ending coming, I can't say the same about Just As...
  •     Love. Love . Love. Love it
  •     I give it 5 stars. I've read it twice.
  •     E Lynn Harris dissects love through the use of his characters as they explore the forms of love society forces on them while uncovering the innate and genuine emotions humans can share with each other by living honestly.
  •     it was very good
  •     Excellent from the first page to the last!
  •     I have read this book a long time ago, but one of my friends needs to read this book. I am purchasing it as a gift for her.
  •     A liitle bit out of fashion and tending to be dramatic, the story evolves fine, although it has some shades of open TV soap opera. Sometimes the main character looks sloppy and lose, specially when his sexuality seems to be clearly shaped, it tries to excuse himself into a very lame bisexuality. A story a little bit longer than desired that goes around in circles and some characters tend to live in constant stress and discomfort.
  •     A great story, give me hope for the future. It paints a true picture of being an independent black male trying to navigate the up and downs of living in "the life."
  •     I love the books that E. Lynn Harris wrote. Miss his novels.

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