JUST AS I AM by E. Lynn Harris


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 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.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-46969-1
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1993


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