I Say a Little Prayer

I Say a Little Prayer

by E. Lynn Harris

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

A USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post BestsellerChauncey Greer, the suave and successful owner of the Cute Boy Greeting Card Company, never wants for the attention of guys just as hot as he is. After a couple of bad dates Chauncey finds himself in church, where the minister’s message inspires him to return to the singing career he had launched as a teenager. Things heat up when Chauncey’s rediscovered singing talent lands him in the middle of a protest over homophobia in the black church, and Chauncey’s old singing partner–and former lover–makes a dramatic and unexpected entrance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400077281
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/21/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

E. Lynn Harris was born in Flint, Michigan and raised, along with three sisters, in Little Rock, Arkansas. 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 before he was "discovered" by Anchor Books. Anchor published Invisible Life as a trade paperback in 1994. 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. Harris's sixth novel, Not A Day Goes By (July 2000) debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. 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. For more: www.elynnharris.com

Hometown:

Chicago, Illinois

Date of Birth:

June 20, 1955

Date of Death:

July 23, 2009

Place of Birth:

Flint, Michigan

Place of Death:

Los Angeles, California

Education:

B.A. in journalism, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, 1977

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Oh, hell naw were the only three words that came to mind, and I found myself saying them out loud.

“Oh, hell naw,” I said.

“Hold up,” Jayshawn whispered as he held his finger to his lips.

“Oh, hell naw,” I repeated.

He got up from the bed with his cell phone glued to his ear and walked into my bathroom. I could hear him say­ing, “I’m sorry, babygirl, I don’t like it when you get upset like this. Give me five minutes and I’ll call you back.”

I sat up in my king-size sleigh bed and wondered how I got myself into situations like this. I had just enjoyed a quiet evening with great Chinese takeout from my favorite restaurant, P. F. Chang’s, a bottle of Merlot, a blunt, and ended the evening with head-banging sex. I’d fallen asleep wrapped up with a handsome redbone PTB (pretty tall brother) and was having sweet dreams until they were inter­rupted by the sound of his cell phone.

I ignored the first call, and didn’t mind when Jayshawn jumped out of bed and took the call in the adjacent bath­room. But then it happened again, and again. Every time I tried to go back to sleep, that fucking cell phone, playing rap music like we were in a club, woke me up. I’d had enough of this shit. I was even willing to give up the promised wake-up sex session with Jayshawn. It served me right for dealing with another so-called DL brother like Jayshawn. That nigga just wasn’t in the closet, he was the closet–all three walls and the double-lock door, too. But what choice did I have, since I didn’t date sissies or men who defined themselves strictly by their sexuality.

“I’m sorry, Chaunce,” Jayshawn said as he walked back into the bedroom, completely nude with a semi-erect penis swinging from side to side.

“What’s going on?” I demanded. It was going to take more than a fat dick to calm me down.

“My girl, you know she be bugging,” he said.

“About what?”

“Thinks I am up here cheating with another girl,” he said as he sat at the edge of the bed and turned toward me as if he was trying to gauge my anger.

“I thought you told her you were working.”
“I did, but you know bitches–they always think they know something. Trying to catch a nigga in some shit,” he said. “I think I need to catch the first flight out. I think there’s one at seven A.M.”

I looked at the digital clock on my DVD player and the time flashed 4:12 A.M. I turned back to Jayshawn and was getting ready to tell him that he needed to catch a taxi because I was not about to get out of my bed at this hour and take his tired ass to the airport, when the damn cell phone rang again!

“Don’t answer that,” I demanded, this time not trying to keep the anger out of my voice.

“I got to, Chauncey,” he said. “I’ll be downstairs trying to get her to chill.”

“Listen, Jayshawn, you need to leave. I don’t care where you go, but you need to get your ass up outta here. I’m going to church in a few hours, and I need some sleep.” I tossed the covers to the floor and got up to take a leak, shaking my head in disgust.

While I was in the bathroom, I thought about all the conversations and e-mails that had led to this evening. Sev­eral years ago, I met Jayshawn as I was walking through the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. I was there on a business trip and Jayshawn was having a drink in the bar. We gave each other the look, and before you could say, “Brothers gonna work it out,” we had exchanged business cards. A couple of days later, I got an e-mail from Jayshawn with a nude picture attached. From that moment, it was on. We agreed to drive and meet each other halfway, which meant I had to drive from Atlanta to Raleigh, North Carolina.

I liked Jayshawn Ward because he was handsome, smart, and like me he wasn’t a card-carrying member of the gay community. He was honest, telling me that he was the father of a six-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. Jayshawn told me he was no longer involved with his baby’s mama but had lady friends he dated occasionally. Neither one of us was looking for a relationship, or as I call it, a relation-shit; we both just wanted some regular hookup sex with another cool brother.

Everything was fine for about two years. We would get together every two months, and the sex was off the chain. Jayshawn knew how to use every part of his six-foot-five-inch frame–he was a former college basketball player who still knew how to dunk.

Last year Jayshawn called me and told me he’d met a special young lady, and he wanted to pursue a relationship with her. He told me we had to end our sessions. I don’t know why, even though it was just sex, I was a little hurt. But then I thought about it and realized that my sex was so good, he’d be back. It might be a couple of months or even a year or two, but they always come back.

I was right.

Right after Memorial Day, after months of noncommu­nication, I got an e-mail from Jayshawn supposedly just checking on me. I started not to respond to his simple “Sup” message, but I did. His next e-mail said, “I been missin’ my nigga and I got a few new things I need to show you.”

I started to make him wait, but since I hadn’t found a replacement for him, my plans to make him beg went out the window just like dirty dishwater. Now, only three weeks later, he and his loud-ass cell phone had to go.

I stomped back into my bedroom and saw Jayshawn in baggy jeans, a black wife-beater T-shirt, and a white do-rag on his head, stuffing a pair of boxers into the small black bag he’d brought. He grabbed his blue shirt the color of jeans, put it on, and began to button it.

“I’m real sorry ’bout this, fam, but I need to get on. I can’t believe this bitch is trippin’ like this. But she’s ask­ing me all kinds of questions, like what kind of work I’m doing and what hotel I’m staying at. Why she can’t call me at the hotel and shit.”

I didn’t respond because I didn’t want to curse his ass out, but this girl was smarter than the average sister who dealt with down-low bisexual brothers. And if he was so in love with her, why did he keep referring to her as a bitch? Didn’t she have a name? But I knew this was just Jayshawn’s way of hanging on to the street-boy credibility that he so cherished. Every time we’d finish banging, he always had that guilty I’m not gonna do this no more look.

“Are you gonna run me to the airport?” he asked.

“No,” I said without looking in his direction or missing a beat. I picked up the covers from the floor and climbed back into bed.

“How am I going to get there?” he asked, dumbfounded.

“You can take MARTA–the station is a couple blocks away–or you can use your loud-ass cell phone and call a cab. I’m done. See ya.” I pulled the covers over my head, welcomed the darkness, and wished someone would create a “no more dumb mofo” vaccine. And quickly, before some­one got hurt.

A few minutes later, I heard my front door slam shut.

***

If someone asked me who Chauncey Greer was, and I wanted to be really honest, what would I say? I’d start by telling them that due to a previous, painful experience my personal theme song is “Love Don’t Love Nobody. Believe That Shit!” So I’m not with the hardhead dude love/rela-tionship program.


I would tell them that I’m a reformed heartbreaker try­ing to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with other people. There was a time in my twenties when I broke a lot of hearts and didn’t give a damn about how the per­son felt when I told them to hit the road or when I stopped returning their phone calls. This one dude, Greg, claimed he was so in love with me that he was going to kill himself if I left him. At that time in my life I was so cold-blooded, I slammed the door in his face and silently waited for a gun­shot or broken window. I ignored him when I saw him a year later with another guy I’d slept with. I started to warn the other brotha that he was dealing with a psycho but felt they deserved one another–at that point in my life I would just go along to get along.

I’m a good-looking brotha (not bragging, just a simple fact) and I’ve had more than my share of equally good-looking brothers and maybe a half-dozen great-looking women. I have my weaknesses like any other man. I guess you could say I’m a LSC (light skin chaser). I prefer my men (and women) to be on the yellow side. Not the light bright and damn near white yellow, but that real nice golden brown. Good hair and light eyes doesn’t hurt. I’m not prejudiced or anything–I have mad respect for my darker-skinned brothers and sisters, since I’m chocolate myself–but my tastes tend to lighter.

I’m not confused about my sexuality. I’m basically bi with a gay leaning. You could say that my sexual tastes are similar to my love for gumbo. You feel what I’m saying? Sometimes I like a little sausage, other times a bit of shrimp. And every now and then, I get a taste for fish. But today, with so many people talking about down-low this and down-low that, it’s too much of a hassle dating women, because they ask too many damn questions. I still find myself attracted to women, but I don’t like to lie. I can save that sin for something else–like cussing out Jayshawn. The only thing brothas are interested in is your HIV status (like a brother gonna tell the truth) and how much you’re pack­ing. Which also adds to my reputation when word got out that my stuff could extend a couple zip codes. And sisters, even though they don’t want to admit it, like that shit, too. Size does matter–to both sexes.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about my own mor­tality, and since I already got a point against me for the sleeping-with-dudes thing, I’ve been trying very hard to be nicer and not lead on women and fat ugly brothas unless they’re exceptional. If statistics are right about the life span of a black man, then I’m approaching the halfway point. Maybe God won’t hold my having been a whorish asshole the early part of my life against me. Now, when I meet somebody I want to hook up with on a sex tip, I tell them right up front that I will only go out (or, let’s be honest, fuck) with them up to three times. When they ask me if I’m kidding, I look them dead in the eye and say when a person tells you who they are, believe them. It’s the one thing I got from watching Oprah every now and then.

Still, these days I treat people the way I want to be treated, which means being honest and saying what’s what. Some people seem to appreciate that, while others think they can change me. But I know me, and I ain’t about to change for anyone. Been there, done that, got the heart­break.
For me, love came calling the first time during the summer of 1982. My hometown–Greenwood, Mississippi–was as humid and sweaty as it always was when the extremely good-looking young outsider moved to town. I was strolling near an old dusty pink brick building known as Greenwood Junior High after a day of summer-school algebra. I hadn’t flunked the tough math course, but I’d made a D and my parents made me attend summer school “voluntarily,” forcing me to give up my annual trip to Chicago and my chance to play baseball. That made me mad, because I was just getting good at hitting the ball out of the park.

I looked toward the basketball court, where six young men ran up and down the court so fast, I wished I had the coordina­tion and height to play with them. I heard the rhythmic sound of the basketball hitting the pavement. Then the clinging of the metal nets as the basketball swooshed through. I closed my eyes and imagined that I was in the middle of Harlem, witnessing a game of New York street ball like I had seen on television. But when I opened my eyes, that’s when I saw him. He was wear­ing a nondescript white T-shirt and baggy shorts. He looked like a midget among a forest of tall trees. I found myself gazing at only him, and when he looked in my direction, an aggressively bright sun stung his golden brown face. His eyes sparkled like a cold glass of ginger ale. From a distance his body looked com­pact, without an ounce of fat.

One of his teammates shouted for him to shoot, and the ball flew from his hand and arched high in the air before hitting noth­ing but net.

I heard a guy say, “I guess you can play, D. I heard they can shoot some hoops down in Georgia.”

Another echoed, “Your shot is so sweet, from now on we gonna call you Sweet D.”

After a few more laps up and down the court, Sweet D stopped his stride and looked at me. He smiled as he twirled the burnt-orange ball on the tip of his finger, and I knew that some­how he would become an important part of my life. The way his eyes seemed to pierce through me cemented my feelings.

That summer I made a B in algebra. I prepared myself for geometry and high school, and my sexual confusion began tak­ing shape.

Reading Group Guide

“Vintage Harris. . . . A story filled with sex, humor and plenty of plot twists.”
Ebony

The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of I Say a Little Prayer, an explosive look at the fraught relationship between black churches and the gay community by bestselling author E. Lynn Harris.

1. The story of Chauncey’s past is interspersed with the main narrative. What does Harris achieve by telling the two stories simultaneously? In what ways do the past and the present play out against one another as the plot unfolds?

2. Chauncey calls himself “a reformed heartbreaker trying to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with other people” [p. 9]. Does “doing the right thing” require more than just “being honest and saying what’s what” [p. 11] with the men he briefly hooks up with? Are there consequences–to himself, as well as to his partners–that he doesn’t recognize or refuses to acknowledge? Is Chauncey’s casual approach to dating and sex widespread among men today, both straight and gay? Is the pattern common among women as well?

3. How has the growth of mega churches changed the practice of religion in contemporary America? Have these large, and usually wealthy, organizations abandoned the essential role of a church in the community? Is it possible to argue that a mega church, through its very size and marketing efforts, can attract Christians looking for a place to renew or rediscover their spirituality?

4. What was your reaction to the private party Chauncey attends [pp. 49—57]? Are the graphic descriptions of the various sexual encounters at the sex club, as well as other explicit scenes in the novel, integral to portraying Chauncey and his lifestyle in an accurate, realistic way?

5. Discuss Chauncey’s musings on sin [p. 58]. Do they express your own religious beliefs or moral principles? What specific values influence your judgments of your own and other people’s behavior? Is there an absolute moral code that applies to everyone or do individuals, religious authorities, or community standards define right and wrong?

6. Chauncey gives an important job to a new printer because he wants to “give a small black business a chance” [p. 66]. Do successful black businessmen have a duty to support other businesses within the black community? Is making a business decision on the basis of race (or gender or sexual preference) a form of discrimination?

7. Reverend Davis delivers a powerful sermon encouraging his followers to vote [p. 159]. Does the discussion of political or civic matters have a place in the church? Are there issues that religious leaders should not address? Have you experienced or read about incidents in which a minister, priest, or rabbi has crossed the line separating church and state? Is the political establishment guilty of bringing religious considerations into government policies and practices? Do you agree, for example, with Vincent’s claim that President Bush’s faith-based initiatives “get . . . ministers to sing his tune” [p. 221]?

8. Reverend Davis is aware of Damien and Grayson Upchurch’s ultraconservative views, yet he is eager to have him come to Abundant Joy. Are his explanations to Chauncey [pp. 178, 230—32] satisfactory? What are the ramifications, both good and bad, of giving Damien a forum to express his views?

9. Does the conversation between Chauncey and Damien [pp. 251—53] cast a different light on their past relationship? Do you think that Damien is sincere in his belief that what they were doing was wrong? What role did his fear of exposure play in his decision to betray Chauncey? How does Harris make their reconciliation believable?

10. I Say a Little Prayer features women only in secondary roles. Are Celia, Ms. Gladys, and Grayson Upchurch fully developed characters? Do their attitudes, problems, and achievements offer insights into lives of women in the African-American community? To what extent is Grayson Upchurch representative of a growing conservative trend in African-American politics?

11. Harris refers to several real people in the novel and also includes “cameo” appearances by characters from his other books. What does this add to your experience as a reader?  

12. The question of accepting gays and lesbians has caused disruption in many churches. Does Harris treat the subject in a balanced and honest way? Does he offer fresh insights into the gay and lesbian point of view? Does his depiction of religious leaders who reject gays and lesbians in their churches adequately explore their reasons and motivations?

13. Is the black community is more homophobic than society-at-large? What historical, social, and cultural forces might explain this?

14. From the fight for women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement, American society has been changed through citizen-led campaigns for equal rights. Is the gay-rights movement comparable to past struggle for equality?

15. The conflict at the heart of I Say A Little Prayer may remind you of a recent real-life scandal. The Reverend Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who frequently spoke out against gay rights and same-sex unions, was “outed” by a man who had a sexual relationship with him. Is exposing the hypocrisy of public figures a moral obligation we all share? Are there situations in which such exposure causes more harm than good?

16. I Say a Little Prayer carries a strong political message. Do you think exploring political themes enhances or undermines the power of Harris’s fiction?

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I Say a Little Prayer 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was required to read this book for a class and i absolutely loved it! I kept my copy and lend it out to all my friends!
Guest More than 1 year ago
THIS BOOK WAS INTERESTING... IT WASN'T THE BEST I'VE READ BUT IT KEPT ME HUNGRY FOR MORE...
starlight70 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I Say A Little Prayer is the second E. Lynn Harris's book I have read. The first being Just As I Am. I know there are many fans of Raymond's series with Just As I Am being the second book in the series. Frankly, I prefer I Say A Little Prayer. I was happy to know that this book was written from only one character's struggle - Chauncey, who has to face the problems associated with a love from his earlier life. This is better compared to Just As I Am, which alternated each chapter with two lead characters. Another thing that makes me prefer this book than Just is that it is less depressing. 'Just' deals with AIDS, and I don't read to feel depressed. However, I find 'Prayer' a little too fast at the end, where the twist in the story is a little too much for me to digest. There is no reason why Damien's wife's past is not known by many, if she is painted to be such. Or even the sudden switch of her wanting to be 'evil'. Although I read only the second book, I would prefer there would be no 'special guest star' from his other books. Lame. Other than that, I found myself looking forward to spending time with the book, eagerly turning the page to find out what would happen next.
ovistine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found E. Lynn Harris on Pearl Cleage's website. I'm a fan of Pearl Cleage, and she's a friend and fan of E. Lynn Harris, and I was very excited to see a black gay male author out there, so I immediately went looking for a book by him. And it was WONDERFUL. Chauncey Greer is a small (but growing) business owner and was once a singer in a boy band; he's also bisexual but leans gay, and this story details how he starts singing again and faces down a man from his past who has since turned into a preacher who speaks out vehemently against gay marriage. It's outstanding (and contains some lovely, smoking hot scenes), and it's the first time I've read a novel focusing on black gay characters, which rocked. I definitely look forward to reading more by this author.
altima313 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was an enjoyable read with good writing and good stories. The novel combines personal and religious ethics with elements of a mystery. Harris used cleverly placed story's of relationships past to give the reader their characters history. Past collides with the present. I enjoyed the appearances of old characters, Yancey Braxton ("Any Way the Wind Blows") still a diva-wanna-be and John Basil Henderson ("A Love of My Own") appears to have grown into a better man. E. Lynn Harris remains true to himself by exploring topics that are controversial. The sex scenes are explicitly real but brief in nature. I look forward to his next novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept me on my toes, and also taught me a few things about myself. A MUST read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good reab it make u think bout what u would do r how u would feel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The availability of book should be received. My account was credited & I had to reorder. The book is still showing available by seller. Please remove.
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DCNightwolf More than 1 year ago
I didn't like the ghetto language from the sample... The writer knows the subject matter and has a compelling story line...
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rolltide13 More than 1 year ago
I am a great fan of E. Lynn Harris' books! This is a page turner like all the rest!!
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