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Touchy Subjects

When someone asked Steve Harvey on a recent episode of Politically Incorrect whether black men masturbate, the cool-as-cookie-dough comedian simply said, "We don't discuss it. We don't bring it up. In fact, it never happened." As uncharacteristic as it may seem, there are a lot of things black people just don't talk about -- personal things, emotional things… sexual things.

For the past decade, E. Lynn Harris has been penning literary soap operas revolving around things black people wouldn't dare disclose out in public all willy-nilly -- unless they're on Jerry Springer, of course. A black man coming to grips with his bisexuality? Hell, that's a whole trilogy of books (Invisible Life, Just As I Am, Abide with Me).

His latest, Not a Day Goes By (Doubleday), chronicles the relationship between a troubled, conceited diva and a studly brotha with a "flexible" sexual past that would make David Bowie jealous. Subject matter aside, Harris has built a career that has inspired many unsigned authors to follow the same route. Before a publishing company snagged the rights to his first book, 1992's Invisible Life, he sold copies independently in black-owned bookstores, book clubs and that underestimated, untapped market, beauty salons. Readers, especially black females, have been devouring his work ever since.

So far, there aren't plans for any of Harris's six novels to be adapted for the big screen, but the author is going to make his movie debut elsewhere. Whitney Houston's production company has drafted Harris to co-write a remake of the 1976 cult musical Sparkle, with R&B songbird Aaliyah as one of the stars. The original was a modest tale of a struggling '50s-era vocal group, but now that Harris is on board, expect to see a lot of stuff you probably won't be able to talk to your black friends about afterward.


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