Synopses & Reviews
Bestselling author E. Lynn Harris is back with another sexy, shocking, and immensely satisfying novel that explores some of today’s toughest and most timely issues.
Chauncey Greer is the owner of Cute Boy Card Company, a thriving company in Atlanta. As a teenager, he was a member of a popular boy band, but left in disgrace when word got out that he and his band mate D were more than good friends. Chauncey is a free spirit, on the brink of forty with a body admired by both men and women. Not into being categorized, Chauncey’s been known to hook up with men and women, but now in the age of the “down low,” he’s found that women ask too many questions, so he’s just focusing on the fellas.
After one too many bad dates, Chauncey finds himself in church where the minister’s message inspires him to follow his dream of a singing career once again. Although he’s lost touch with D, as he starts writing songs his thoughts inevitably turn to his former lover. Chauncey’s powerful performance at the church earns him a standing ovation and an invitation to participate in an upcoming revival. But Chauncey soon discovers that an ambitious fundamentalist preacher plans to use the revival to speak out against gays and gay marriage. Feeling angry and betrayed, Chauncey and other gay members of the church decide to take a stand against the church’s homophobia by staging a “Day of Absence” when all of the gay members and their friends and family stay home. Everything is going as planned …until D appears on the scene and Chauncey has to confront his past and make some hard decisions about his future. I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER is filled with the delicious plot twists, humor, compassion, and up-to-the-minute controversy fans expect from their beloved “E. Lynn.” Harris has returned with another gem of a novel that will rocket to the top of bestseller lists nationwide.
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 ministers message inspires him to return to the singing career he had launched as a teenager. Things heat up when Chaunceys rediscovered singing talent lands him in the middle of a protest over homophobia in the black church, and Chaunceys old singing partner-and former lover-makes a dramatic and unexpected entrance.
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
Reading Group Guide
“Vintage Harris. . . . A story filled with sex, humor and plenty of plot twists.”
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?