Eddy L. Harris About the Participants
January 13-16, 2000

EDDY L. HARRIS, a product of St. Louis, is the author of four critically acclaimed books, Mississippi Solo, Native Stranger, South of Haunted Dreams, and Still Life in Harlem, all of which partake of memoir, travelogue, adventure tale, and cultural reportage. As USA Today put it: "Eddy L. Harris isn't your everyday tourist. His travels almost always have a purpose, and that purpose is to write about not only what he sees, but what he feels." Harris says that success has not come easy. "After a few false starts and many failures, three weeks snoozing as a marketing rep for IBM, I turned my attention to writing—determined to earn my living as a writer or not at all, and equally determined to prove Toby Wolff wrong" (his writing teacher at Stanford at the time, Toby advised Eddy to think of a different profession; and even suggested buying tools and becoming a plumber.) Much, perhaps, to Wolff's surprise, Harris graduated Stanford and has been writing ever since.

Harris says his is a story of failure and perseverance: failure as a short story writer, failure as a novelist, failure as a screenwriter and as a journalist. In 1985, after ten years of failure, and in "an attempt at passive suicide," Harris canoed the Mississippi River, and thus began his career as a memoirist adventurer. He has since garnered the kind of attention and praise that swirls around the finest writers and finds himself bemused to be called by some "America's premier memoirist and travel writer." The Los Angeles Reader captures his writing: "At every turn, Harris challenges assumptions about race, forcing his readers to examine their own minds ... In thoughtful prose that is deeply personal, Harris rips open the wound of race and lets out the evils festering inside ... A consciousness-raising session on the conundrum of race relations."

For the past four years Harris has been Writer in Residence at Washington University in St. Louis and is currently living in Paris where he is hard at work on a novel which "attempts to link the good life in Paris with the misfortune of those who have it less good--those who live through the lunacy of racialist thinking, the logical extension of which is extermination and ethnic cleansing."

  • Mississippi Solo: A River Quest (Henry Holt, 1988)
  • Native Stranger : A Black American's Journey into the Heart of Africa (Henry Holt, 1991)
  • South of Haunted Dreams: A Memoir (Henry Holt, 1993)
  • Still Life In Harlem (Henry Holt, 1996)