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Just As I Am by E. Lynn Harris
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Just As I Am (original 1994; edition 2000)

by E. Lynn Harris

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358345,461 (4.04)4
Member:Georgiedarme
Title:Just As I Am
Authors:E. Lynn Harris
Info:Doubleday (2000), Hardcover, 384 pages
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Just As I Am by E. Lynn Harris (1994)

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This was a frustrating read for me. I liked the characters, and the story, but the further I got into the story, the more it became clear that the characters were just a bit too dumb and simplified to be believable. The main characters, and the characters who were meant to be likable, were just too good to be true, and a bit too dumb--realizing themselves and each other too slowly and saying all the right and wrong things at all the right moments. Simply, nobody's journey in life is so stereotypically designed. And, the characters who readers weren't meant to like were either too simply presented for readers to feel one way or the other, or outright villains, to the extent that their involvement with the main characters made little to no sense.

Beyond the characters, I'd be remiss to not comment on the writing. At times, the book was just overwritten, especially the dialogue. Characters spoke in overly formal language (no contractions except the few characters who spoke in over-done dialect or accent) that sounded unbelievable, or overexplained things so that the reader would know when, really, the character would never be saying these things aloud. Similarly, the therapy sessions were overdone. Instead of writing explication and backstory into the characters' actions or internal thoughts, backstory was written into dialogic therapy sessions that were just long enough to get the points across.

Simply, I probably wouldn't read more of Harris' work based on this read. The writing--especially in dialogue and character design--just wasn't strong enough. I don't necessarily need writing to be phenomenal, but it should be strong enough that it doesn't make itself known as a flaw that takes away from the story. Here, that's what happened.

If you're just looking for non-thinking entertainment and drama (soap-opera/romance style), this book might indeed be of interest, but if you're attentive to language and believable characters & situations...well, I'd go elsewhere. This probably isn't a book I'd find reason to recommend on to future readers. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Jun 9, 2012 |
This was the book that made me want to read E. Lynn Harris' work. Most people will see this as a book about AIDS but it is so much more. It is about relationships simple, complicated, kind and true. If I should be ill an dfacing death as Kyle, I want a Raymond Tyler. Raymond has his faults but his loyalty and love are not on the list. I find Kyle to be a perfect tragic hero.
I will also say this book was groundbreaking for in subject matter. If this book is read correctly, with an open mind without being snide because of sexual orientation of characters, the reader will find reason to examine somethings in their own lives.
I did not give it five stars because some of the vernacular worked my nerves but the content was excellent. ( )
  vtlucania | May 3, 2012 |
If you need a good cry this is the one you need. The character in this book become a part of your life while you're reading it! You'll find yourself wondering what's going on with Kyle while the book isn't in your hands. E. Lynn Harris has done a great job with this one. Enjoy! ( )
  Chellsway | Dec 16, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385469691, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:01 -0400)

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