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A Tribute to E. Lynn Harris (& 167. Mama Dearest)...

September 25, 2009
Author E. Lynn Harris passed away this past July. In his honor, Karen Hunter Publishing and Pocket Books have created E. Lynn Harris Day on 9/25/09 as a tribute to his life and his final novel, MAMA DEAREST. Fellow authors and friends of Lynn's will be hosting events that evening across the country (a full list can be found at, and I am honored to participate in a blog tour for Mama Dearest today.

e. lynn harrisAbout the author:
E. Lynn Harris was born in Flint, Michigan and raised, along with three sisters, in Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where he was the school's first black yearbook editor, the first black male Razorbacks cheerleader, and the president of his fraternity. He graduated with honors with a degree in journalism.

Harris sold computers for IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and AT&T for thirteen years while living in Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. In 1991, he quit his sales job to write his first novel, Invisible Life, which, failing to find a publisher, he self-published and sold mostly at black-owned bookstores, beauty salons, and book clubs before he was "discovered" by Anchor Books. Anchor published Invisible Life as a trade paperback in 1994, and E. Lynn Harris’s career as an author officially began.

Harris went on to become a ten-time New York Times bestselling author. His work included the memoir What Becomes of the Brokenhearted and the novels, A Love of My Own, Just as I Am, Any Way the Wind Blows (all three of which were named Novel of the Year by the Blackboard African American Bestsellers), I Say a Little Prayer, If This World Were Mine (which won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence), the classic Invisible Life, Just Too Good to Be True, and Basketball Jones.

Harris was a member of the Board of Directors of the Hurston/Wright Foundation and the Evidence Dance Company. He was also the founder of the E. Lynn Harris Better Days Foundation, a nonprofit company that provides support to aspiring writers and artists.

E. Lynn Harris passed away at the age of 54 in 2009, just months before the publication of his final novel, Mama Dearest.

mama dearestAbout the book:
One of E. Lynn Harris's incomparable heroines, Yancey Harrington Braxton, is working her way back to Broadway and beyond. And this diva supreme always stirs up drama in and out of the spotlight....

New York City, you've been warned: Yancey Harrington Braxton is back. The ambitious singer and actress is fired up to move past her recent professional and personal setbacks — including an explosive romance with NFL tight end John Basil Henderson — and prove her talents are stronger than ever. After being out on tour, Yancey realizes what she really wants is to star in her own reality TV series, and she's even found a rich and well-connected lover to make it happen. There are, however, two women fierce enough to derail Yancey's plans with ambitions of their own: Madison B., a hot new bombshell taking the music industry by storm, and Ava Middlebrooks, who happens to be Yancey's own mama dearest.

Ava is out, about, and ready to reclaim her throne. Not even a stint in prison for attempted murder has curbed Ava's competitive nature, and it doesn't faze her in the least that her #1 rival is her own daughter. Ava is willing to do whatever it takes to make Yancey pay, including using Madison B. to turn Yancey's world upside-down by forcing her to confront the past...and making her comeback dreams more exciting and dangerous than she ever imagined.

Taking readers on a wild, passion-filled tour of the entertainment world, E. Lynn Harris's Mama Dearest delivers sensual thrills and electric plot twists — with one unforgettable woman of radiant star power, sexual magnetism, and unapologetic ambition at the heart of the action.

drey's thoughts:
Wow. The only other book of Harris' that I've read is Invisible Life, which knocked my socks off. This one, I wasn't so sure about... Halfway through the book, and there wasn't a single redeemable character in sight. Yancey is completely high-maintenance and witchy. And believe it or not, her mother Ava is a hundred times worse. The way these women treated each other, and others, really made me want to put the book down in disgust.

But. Slowly but surely, things start changing. And as Yancey finally realizes that her life can be what she wants--she just needs to change the how of it--Harris brings her story full circle. And you are left satisfied with the way this one ends. The second half of this book definitely makes putting up with the first half worthwhile.

Between Invisible Life and Mama Dearest, I'm sorry I didn't discover E. Lynn Harris' writing before his passing.

Title: Mama Dearest
Author: E. Lynn Harris
ISBN-10: 1439158908
ISBN-13: 9781439158906
Hardcover: 387 pages
Publisher: Karen Hunter Publishing, 2009

Challenges: 100+, Pub

Tour stops:
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The Brain Lair
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Jeanne’s Ramblings
Cheryl’s Book Nook
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Jeanette said...

I had the exact same thought about the book! It kind of gives you hope that even the wichiest can redeem themselves. lol!

Seriously though, it kind of made me think that maybe even the meanest witches have a reason for being the way they are and that there is always a path to redemption. Great read!

bermudaonion said...

I attended the SIBA Trade Show this weekend and we actually observed a moment of silence in memory of E. Lynn Harris.

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