Synopses & Reviews
African American men who have sex with men while maintaining a heterosexual lifestyle in public are attracting increasing interest from both the general media and scholars. Commonly referred to as and#147;down-lowand#8221; or and#147;DLand#8221; men, many continue to have relationships with girlfriends and wives who remain unaware of their same-sex desires, and in much of the media, DL men have been portrayed as carriers of HIV who spread the virus to black women.and#160;Sexual Discretionand#160;
explores the DL phenomenon, offering refreshingly innovative analysis of the significance of media, space, and ideals of black masculinity in understanding down low communities.
Inand#160;Sexual Discretion, Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr. provides the first in-depth examination of how the social expectations of black masculinity intersect and complicate expressions of same-sex affection and desire. Within these underground DL communities, men arenand#8217;t as highly policedand#151;and thus are able to maintain their public roles as and#147;properly masculine.and#8221; McCune draws from sources that range from RandB singer R. Kellyand#8217;s epic hip-hopera series Trapped in the Closet to Oprah's high-profile exposand#233; on DL subculture; and from E. Lynn Harrisand#8217;s contemporary sexual passing novels to McCuneand#8217;s own interviews and ethnography in nightclubs and online chat rooms.and#160;Sexual Discretionand#160;details the causes, pressures, and negotiations driving men who rarely disclose their intimate secrets.
When her wedding to John “Basil” Henderson didnt come off as planned, Yancey Harrington Braxton flew off to L.A. and remade herself as mega-diva Yancey B. And Basil started concentrating on his career as a high-powered sports agent. But then Yanceys first single, “Any Way the Wind Blows,” hit the charts, and now it threatens to blow Basils cover--if anyone learns who its really about. And it looks like the gorgeous (and ambitious) hunk Bart Dunbar might just have it all figured out.
The latest from E Lynn Harris.
About the Author
E. Lynn Harris is a former IBM computer sales executive and a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He is the author of seven previous novels: Any Way the Wind Blows, Not a Day Goes By, Abide with Me, Invisible Life, Just as I Am, And This Too Shall Pass, and If This World Were Mine. His most recent novel is A Love of My Own. In 1996, Just as I Am was named Novel of the Year by the Blackboard African American Bestsellers, Inc. Abide with Me and If This World Were Mine won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence. In 2000, E. Lynn Harris was named one of the fifty-five Most Intriguing African Americans by Ebony and inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Harris divides his time between New York City and Atlanta.
Table of Contents
One / Introduction: Discrete/Discreet Acts, Goinand#8217; Down Low
Two / Yoand#8217; Daddyand#8217;s Dysfunctional: Risk, Blame, and Necessary Fictions in Down-Low Discourse
Three / and#147;Outand#8221; in the Club: The Down Low, Hip-Hop,and the Architexture of Black Masculinity
Four / Goinand#8217; Down Low: Virtual Space and thePerformance of Masculine Sincerity
Five / The Pages Are Ridden with Discretion:and#160; Pedagogy of the Pass and Present
Conclusion: From Sexual Discretion to Sexual Suspicion
Reading Group Guide
1. The novel opens with each of the three main characters giving a quick sketch of themselves. Is there a particular sentence or section in each description that conveys the essence of each persons character?
2. Bart says, “At twenty-one, I believed in love lasting forever. At twenty-eight, I know nothing lasts forever . . . except maybe revenge” [p. 11]. Is this a common point of view? What examples can you give from your own experiences, your observations of the world, or literature that support it? Do you think Yanceys reasons for wanting revenge [p. 73] are more understandable and more justifiable than Barts?
3. Basil and Rosa talk about having a child together, even though neither of them wants to get married [p. 14]. In your opinion, is either of them ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood, given the nature of their relationship and the way they handle the revelation of Rosas pregnancy?
4. In talking about his friend Wylie, Bart says, “I remember a time when intelligence was considered hot in a man. . . . Today its beauty, sex . . . or wealth” [p. 35]. Is this “dumbing down” unique to the gay black community or is it prevalent in American society in general? Do you agree with Bart that heterosexuals have more opportunities for real love than gay men do [p. 37]?
5. Windsor plans to keep her baby whether Wardell decides to marry her or not [p. 71]. Do you think this is the right decision? Is it better, as she says, “to be a product of a broken home than to live in one” [p. 71]? If you have read about the recent, controversial studies of children of divorce and other kids raised in single parent homes, discuss how you feel about the findings and how they relate to Windsors decision.
6. Do you think Basil represents the majority of bisexual men? To what extent do the unspoken rules of society contribute to his insistence on hiding his sexual orientation? Do you think that he is serious about his quest to find a mother for his children, or is this simply part of his cover-up? How does the way he talks about women support your viewpoint?
7. Basil cockily declares, “With all the talk of brothers who swung both ways, women still hadnt learned all the games” [p. 136] and “Men, even gay men, knew how to separate love and sex, even if women couldnt” [p. 156]. Are women as naive as Basil believes? Is there a difference between men who date more than one woman and men who “swing both ways”?
8. What is your reaction to Yancey and Basils reunion [pp. 171-175]? Does it fit your expectations or were you surprised by either Basils or Yanceys behavior? Which character appears in a more sympathetic light? Why do you think Harris chooses Yancey to describe the meeting?
9. Two secrets—Basils sexuality and the existence of Yanceys child—and the threat that they will be revealed lie at the heart of the novel. Which do you think is the more damaging secret? Is the media (embodied in the character of the gossip columnist LaVonya) overeager to feed the publics fascination with scandal without considering its effect on the individuals concerned?
10. What incidents or relationships show that both Basil and Yancey have a softer, more human side behind their tough exteriors? Do you think that Yanceys new romance and the birth of Basils child will bring about permanent changes in their personalities?
11. What roles do Wylie, Windsor, and Raymond play in the novel? To what extent do they act as moral consciences for the main characters? Are they realistically portrayed, or are they a bit too perfect? How does Harriss depiction of them compare to his depiction of Bart and Ava, the villains in the novel?
12. If you are familiar with current television programs that feature gay men [p. 37], discuss how well they depict the reality of gay life in America. Do the creators of shows such as Queer As Folk and Will & Grace and other forms of popular culture have a responsibility to instruct as well as entertain? How do you think E. Lynn Harris would answer the question?
13. How do Harriss other books compare to Any Way the Wind Blows? Does this novel represent a change in Harriss style or in the nature of the themes he explores? What do you think the basic message of the book is?
14. The same characters appear in many of Harriss novels, sometimes in leading roles, sometimes in cameos. Which of the characters in Any Way the Wind Blows would you like see in his next novel and why?
Packed with more drama than a hurricane at a Fourth of July picnic.” —USA TODAY
The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your groups discussion of Any Way the Wind Blows, a hip, high-flying novel about revenge and redemption. Written by bestselling African American author, E. Lynn Harris, its a wicked romp through showbiz and the world of big-time sports agencies. As Harriss fans might expect, it also peeks into the bedrooms of men and women whose sexual adventures are as supercharged and complicated as their career moves.