E. Lynn Harris was born in Flint, Michigan and raised, along with three sisters, in Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where he was the school's first black yearbook editor, the first black male Razorbacks cheerleader, and the president of his fraternity. He graduated with honors with a degree in journalism.
Harris sold computers for IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and AT&T for 13 years while living in Dallas, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. He finally quit his sales job to write his first novel, Invisible Life, and, failing to find a publisher, he published it himself in 1991 and sold it mostly at black-owned bookstores, beauty salons, and book clubs before he was "discovered" by Anchor Books. Anchor published Invisible Life as a trade paperback in 1994 and thus his career as an author was "officially" launched.
Invisible Life was followed by Just As I Am (1994), And This Too Shall Pass (1996), If This World Were Mine (1997), and Abide With Me (1999), all published by Doubleday. All of Harris's books have been bestsellers; And This Too Shall Pass, If This World Were Mine, Abide With Me, Not A Day Goes By and A Love of My Own were New York Times bestsellers. They also appeared on the bestseller lists of the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, and Los Angeles Times. Harris's sixth novel, Not A Day Goes By (July 2000) debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list and was a #1 Publishers Weekly bestseller for two consecutive weeks. His seventh novel, Any Way the Wind Blows (July 2001), also debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. His most recent novel, A Love of My Own (July 2002), was a national bestseller as well. What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted (July 2003), Harris’s first non fiction work, debuted at #6 on the New York Times bestseller list making E. Lynn the first African American male to appear on both the fiction and non-fiction lists. Currently, there are over three million copies of Harris's novels in print.
Harris's writing has also appeared in Sports Illustrated, American Visions, Essence, The Washington Post Sunday Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Sports Illustrated, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Savoy, The Advocate and the award-winning anthology Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America, Go The Way Your Blood Beats. His novella, "Money Can't Buy Me Love" was published in Got To Be Real: Four Original Love Stories (December 2000). Freedom In The Village, a collection of short stories edited by Harris, was released in Fall 2004. His short fiction appeared in Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writers (Harlem Moon), a collection he also co-edited with writer Marita Golden, in 2002.
Harris has won numerous accolades and prizes for his work. In 1996, Just As I Am was awarded Blackboard's Novel of the Year prize. In 1997, If This World Were Mine was nominated for a NAACP Image Award and won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence. Abide With Me, Any Way the Wind Blows, and A Love of My Own were also nominated for NAACP Image Awards. In 2002 Any Way the Wind Blows won Harris his second Blackboard Novel of the Year prize, and A Love of My Own was recently named Blackboard Novel of the Year, making Harris the first author to receive back-to-back honors and to receive the prize a record three times. His memoir was awarded a Lambda Literary Bridgebuilder Award in 2004. In 2006 Freedom In The Village was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.
In 1999, the University of Arkansas honored Harris with a Citation of Distinguished Alumni for outstanding professional achievement, and in October 2000, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Over the past three years, he has also been named to Ebony's "Most Intriguing Blacks" list, Out Magazine's "Out 100" list, New York Magazine's "Gay Power 101" list, and Savoy's "100 Leaders and Heroes in Black America" list. Other honors have included the Sprague Todes Literary Award, the Harvey Milk Honorary Diploma and The Silas Hunt Award for Outstanding Achievement from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
In addition to his publishing pursuits, Harris has also completed a screenplay for a remake of the 1970's African American classic film Sparkle (to be produced by Warner Brothers with Deborah Martin Chase and Whitney Houston) and was tapped by Fox Television to write the pilot of a new dramatic series. He made his Broadway debut in the fall of 2001, appearing as the narrator in a benefit performance of "Dreamgirls," starring Lillias White, Heather Headley and Audra McDonald. He later returned to Broadway for one night in "Love Letters to America," alongside Rosie Perez, Annabella Sciorra and other prominent New York film and theater personalities. A musical based on his novel Not A Day Goes By enjoyed a successful national tour in 2004 starring Emmy winner Jackee Harry and Treynece from American Idol fame.
A popular college lecturer, Harris has spoken at the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University, Harvard University, Duke University, Princeton University, University of North Texas, Hampton University, Spellman College, Morehouse College, Florida A&M, Ohio State, George Washington University, University of Georgia, University of Illinois, University of Tennessee, Stanford University, College of William and Mary, Virginia Tech, Tufts, Tennessee State University, University of Pittsburg, Kent State University, University of Tennessee-Chattooga, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Florida, Louisiana State, University of South Carolina, and South Carolina State. For the last five semesters, Harris has been a visiting professor and Writer-In-Residence in the English department at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, his alma mater.
An avid University of Arkansas Razorbacks fan, E. Lynn is a part-time Cheer Coach for the award winning Razorback Cheerleaders, Harris divides his time between Fayetteville, Arkansas, Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas.