At the end of Invisible Life, Raymond and Nicole had just ended a blossoming love affair when Nicole found herself unable to cope with Raymond's bisexuality. Just As I Am begins soon after that, as the two former lovers try to rebuild their lives. Raymond has moved to Atlanta to practice law, and he continues to question whether he's genuinely bisexual or really gay, but is unable to accept that a real lifetime love might happen with anyone but a wife. (The reappearance of charismatic--and closeted--pro football player Basil Henderson doesn't exactly make things easier for him.) Nicole has agreed to marry her rich, white lover, who's bankrolling her latest Broadway effort, even though she's not sure she loves him. She and Raymond are reunited when their mutual best friend, Kyle, succumbs to his HIV infection and Raymond returns to New York City to be by his side. Over the years, E. Lynn Harris has proved himself a powerful male counterpart to the commercial success of African American authors like Terry McMillan; the turbulent plot of Just As I Am, with its relentless focus on characters' feelings, ably demonstrates how he's become so popular.
E. Lynn Harris's blend of rich, romantic storytelling and controversial contemporary issues like race and bisexuality have found an enthusiastic and diverse audience across America. Readers celebrate the arrival in paperback of his second novel, Just As I Am, which picks up where Invisible Life left off, introducing Harris's appealing and authentic characters to a new set of joys, conflicts, and choices. Raymond, a young black lawyer from the South, struggles to come to terms with his sexuality and with the grim reality of AIDS. Nicole, an aspiring singer/actress, experiences frustration in both her career and in her attempts to find a genuine love relationship. Both characters share an eclectic group of friends who challenge them, and the reader, to look at themselves and the world around thern through different eyes. By portraying Nicole's and Raymond's joys, as well as their pain, Harris never ceases to remind us that life, like love, is about self-acceptance. In this vivid portrait of contemporary black life, with all its pressures and the complications of bisexuality, AIDS, and racism, Harris confirms a faith in the power of love -- love of all kinds -- to thrill and to heal, which will warm the hearts of readers everywhere.
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