cover image Just as I Am

Just as I Am

E. Lynn Harris. Doubleday Books, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-385-46969-2

Set in a black upper-middle class milieu, this unappealing potboiler attempts to detail the lives and loves of an intersecting group of overachievers with a variety of sexual appetites. Harris ( Invisible Life ) has managed to capture the material aspects of the good life and the East Coast black gay scene, but he has also propped up his labored prose on a well-intentioned scaffold of gay activist issues. The result is more checklist than novel: when a character is introduced, a demographic stereotype is quickly outlined to elicit the reader's mechanical response. Successful, handsome and bisexual, African American sports lawyer Raymond Tyler Jr. has just moved to Atlanta from New York. But he's plagued by problems. His respected and politically active Alabama family think he's straight. He's hot for a supposedly hetero colleague at the law firm who seems to be coming on to him, but who fears being exposed. His newest client, a sexy star NFL quarterback and arrogant troublemaker, wants a little action too and doesn't mind embarrassing Tyler to get it. Meanwhile, Tyler's former lover, a New York actress, is dealing with a rich, pushy and cartoonishly possessive lover. Melodramatic and banal, this book is soap opera material. Author tour. (Mar.)