Learning to Be True to Oneself Novel Examines Sexual Identity

By Reviewed Andrea M. Wren | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 3, 1994 | Go to article overview

Learning to Be True to Oneself Novel Examines Sexual Identity


Reviewed Andrea M. Wren, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


JUST AS I AM A novel by E. Lynn Harris 368 pages, Doubleday, $21.95

IT IS FITTING that "Invisible Life," E. Lynn Harris' debut novel, began with a reference to Langston Hughes. Biographers continue to contemplate the exact nature of Hughes' sexuality, and it was Hughes who explored the phenomena of the "tragic mulatto" in his poem "Cross."

Harris combines these themes with an exploration into the life of the "sexual mulatto" in "Invisible Life," in which the protagonist discovers his dual sexual interest in women and men. "Just As I Am" begins where "Invisible Life" ended. This sequel is another breezy and brilliant sexual coming-of-age analysis by Harris.

The author effortlessly weaves his tale told in the alternating voices of former lovers Nicole Marie Springer and Raymond Winston Tyler Jr. Just as effortlessly, Harris integrates historical footnotes into the plot. For example, Raymond Jr. describes himself as "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."

Later, Raymond Jr. is in an Atlanta church and wonders how the congregation would fare without its gay and lesbian contingent. Harris goes on to explore religion through the character of Sheila, who is also known as "Ms. Jesus." Kyle, a flamboyant individual who likes to glamorize the gay lifestyle, challenges one-sided religious rhetoric. He swears that if he hears the "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" line once more, he'll explode.

Too often, when a writer creates more than two prominent characters, they share the same language. Consequently, the dialogue fails, as does the demarcation between personalities. To Harris' credit, his characters are clearly drawn, and their language and lifestyles are refreshingly dissimilar.

One of the most fascinating characters is Basil Henderson. Basil is a homophobic bisexual who has bought into the heterosexual American dream. A professional football player, Basil falls in lust with Raymond Jr. During a rendezvous, Basil's woman friend interrupts the men. Symbolism and reality clash when Basil shoves Raymond Jr. into the closet: "For a moment, in my shocked silence, I was convinced this was a bad dream," Raymond says. "I just knew I would wake up any moment but then I suddenly heard Basil's and Dyanna's voices outside in what sounded like friendly conversation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Learning to Be True to Oneself Novel Examines Sexual Identity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.