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What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (July 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385502648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385502641
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,061,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With his bestselling novels (And This Too Shall Pass; Abide with Me; etc.) Harris has carved out a niche as a writer of jaunty books with melodramatic plots, usually centering on gay or bisexual black men with riches and rippling biceps. In stark contrast, Harris's memoir is free of the fancy trappings his characters enjoy, starting with the author's suicide attempt in 1990, before he decided to become a writer. From this beginning, Harris goes back to his birth in 1955 and proceeds chronologically, detailing abuse by his stepfather, the awakenings of sexual desire for other men and the discovery of his biological father. Some passages ache for more detail, as when Harris offhandedly mentions working in a brothel at age 13. More often, though, the pace is fitting, giving the book a sense of forward motion as strong as the thoughts of young Harris, dreaming of escape from his native Arkansas. Although he suffers traumas and frustrations as a child, Harris's love life is most heartbreaking. His struggle to find love as an African-American Southern man led to a series of disappointing relationships that taxed Harris's tenderhearted, affectionate nature. He tells this part of his story with such simplicity and straightforwardness, it seems distilled, stripped down to its barest elements until only the clearest emotions remain. Readers of Harris's novels should be surprised at how far from charmed his life was, compared to the troubled but ultimately blissful lives of his fictional characters. Yet they should appreciate the deep honesty with which he describes each stumble and fall.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

"I set out to write a story for me . . . that would capture the pain and joy of being black and gay. I wanted it to be a love story," Harris says in explanation of his first novel, Invisible Life (1991), which he wrote after years of alcoholism, joblessness, and depression, and after losing friends and a successful lifestyle that once included driving a Mercedes (later repossessed). Raised just a step above welfare in Arkansas and repeatedly and brutally beaten by his stepfather, Ben, Harris for decades carried deep-seated feelings of inferiority and anxiety about being born out of wedlock, about being poor, and about being "different," which he later learned consisted of being gay. His young manhood was a series of drunken flings punctuated by occasional, ill-fated romances that left him ever lonelier and more tearful in his quest for love. When the deaths of friends spurred him to write, the creative act helped him mature into the confident, best-selling author he is now. His fans will embrace his fast-paced memoir eagerly, and then be caught up in this engaging writer's engagingly told life story. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

E. Lynn Harris (1955-2009) is the author of ten previous novels and the memoir What Becomes of the Brokenhearted. His recent novels Just Too Good to be True, I Say a Little Prayer, A Love of My Own, and Any Way the Wind Blows hit the bestseller lists in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other publications. He founded the E. Lynn Harris Better Days Foundation, a nonprofit company that provides support to aspiring writers and artists.

Customer Reviews

This book made you laugh, cry.
Mr. Harris is a talented writer and a very soulful and brave human being to share his unvarnished life in this book.
Amazon Customer
I ended up emailing E. Lynn Harris about this book, and hopefully he'll read my email and email me back.
Tanika L. Carroll

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Karl Miller on July 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
E. Lynn Harris is a great fiction writer, which sometimes makes the transition to fact difficult. But his life story, which represents triumph of the spirit and determination to overcome obstacles is a true winner.
The book opens in the early 1990's, prior to Harris's success as an author, and uses an attempted suicide as a starting point for this biography. It's a chilling opening, but it sets the tone for many of the harsh realities presented by Harris.
An early childhood filled with abuse, teenage years spent questioning sexuality, and lifelong battles with depression certainly aren't the stuff of happy memories, yet Harris raises his many issues with clarity and purpose.
The two sections of Harris's life that make for the most gripping reading are his college experiences and his battles with depression. The college years are both funny and heartbreaking, and Harris is at his best when presenting this type of material. His entry and rise up the leadership rung of his college fraternity make for the best reading, if only because they are cast against a backdrop of his emerging sexuality (and the challenges that raises as a Greek), and his role as the first male cheerleader at the University of Alabama (which gives Harris an opportunity to tell some great stories). His battles with depression are significant as he comes to grasp with the fact that his depression is chemical based, and not the result of (as he believed) his issues with his sexuality. This portion of the book really hits the reader hard, and his overall success in treatment truly warms the heart.
Anyone familiar with Harris's successes as an author know how the story ends - he has become incredibly successful, and happy with who he is, which is the ultimate triumph of this book. Fans of his fiction will enjoy getting to know the real E. Lynn Harris - and fans of autobiographies should also enjoy this gritty yet warm story.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on July 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In an emotional, heart-pulling introduction and first chapter, we are given an in-depth look into the real world of E. Lynn Harris, not the glamorized life many of his fans will assume that he's led. WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED is the highly acclaimed and much anticipated release of the summer. It's a tell-all on the life of an award-winning author who started out self-publishing and has continuously reached new heights writing about relationships between gay and bi-sexual men. We are now able to find out more about the young child and man prior to what we hear about today and have read in the bios that accompany his books.
Opening with his suicide attempt in 1990, Harris immediately shows us that his life is very different from the wealthy characters he writes about. He tells of how even at a time in which he was ready to give up living, he was able to come back from "rock-bottom" through his faith in God as well as the support of friends and family. Without delay, he grabs the reader's attention and then takes you back in time as he shares about his childhood and growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The first experience he shares is Easter 1964. He is dressed up in his new jacket and is excited about giving his Easter speech before the church congregation. His happiness is quickly shattered when his father Ben rips apart his new jacket, verbally demeans him and calls him a sissy. He doesn't quite understand that while his two sisters can proudly twirl around and display their Easter outfits, it's not befitting for a young boy to do the same. This just one of the scenes he shares about life at the hands of his physically abusive father.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dana Y. Bowles VINE VOICE on August 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fans of the "E" Man (as I call him) are allowed into the personal life of this wonderful author and man....difficult to read at times, this is a very emotional story of the difficulties facing men, specifically Black men, who are gay in a world that offers up enough obstacles to those who are straight.
I have long been a fan of E. Lynn Harris, and I will admit to some disappointment when I found that his newest work was an autobiography; ironically, he even makes reference in the book to the fact that many of his fans may be disappointed. You won't be!
Follow "Lynn" from his childhood days in Arkansas, at the hands of his abusive stepfather....see the love showered on him from his family....walk with him through his college days, and be proud of his academic achievements....and cry throughout, as he struggles to find romantic love....from any sex....and struggles with the fact that he is, truly, gay.
I cried many times throughout this book, but I find true solace and irony in the fact that the same man who struggled with alcoholism and depression in his quest to find love is loved by so many the world over today.
God Bless you, "Lynn......."
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Hudson on July 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Courageous, admirable, heartfelt, heart warming, emotional. All of these adjectives I would use to describe the memoirs of E. Lynn Harris. Mr. Harris has taken a great step in life, writing down his life for the entire world to see and make comment on and that takes tremendous courage. I can only hope for him, that this is a liberating experience and some of the demons that have fought him have finally turned him loose. Usually not an avid fan of his fictional writing, this chronological autobiography has allowed me to understand more of his fiction and the need that he has for its writing. Totally inspirational, I've garnered a new respect for this caring, spirited man.
The title alone compelled me to read. To think, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted really is captivating. So many people walk around life with a seemingly perfect outer shell, inside is totally in a shambles. Without an outlet to express oneself, we can easily become brokenhearted and disillusioned. Harris experienced this many times during his life starting with an abusive step father, continuing with a short reunion with his father, his seemingly inability to fit in at school, attempted suicide and general unhappiness with his life. It seems that he spent over half of his life looking for someone to love him and seeking ways in which to love himself, while those of us who would look at him would see IBM Executive, a workingman driving around in the latest greatest car, always on top of his game. Many times this search proved tearful for both author and reader. I found this memoir to be elegantly written and riveting.
I applaud Mr. Harris. He's shared a part of his soul with the world and I appreciate his efforts.
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