With an unusual spin on the ever-fascinating topic of dreams, best-selling author E. Lynn Harris shared his definitions of the word to an engaging crowd at the Ohio Union’s East Ballroom yesterday.
Harris, who has written eight books about black culture and black gay and bisexual experiences, said he was happy to be making his third appearance at Ohio State.
“I’m glad to be here at Ohio State, or The Ohio State University, as you guys call it,” Harris said. “I don’t know what that means, but I once was a judge at the Miss Ohio Beauty Pageant and all of the ladies called it that.”
Graduating from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Harris said he always referred to his own alma mater as “The University.” Although he received a degree in journalism, Harris sold computers at IBM for 13 years before publishing his first book. This experience helped him describe one of the four types of dreams discussed in his speech.
“There are four kinds of dreams – rain dreams, snow dreams, daydreams and nightmares,” he said. “Rain dreams are the kind of dreams you see on TV – the ones that supposedly define a good life. Everyone told me that working at IBM would be a great job. I was going to be a lawyer for that same reason. I had no interest in politics, but I thought it was something I should want to do, in order to be respected by my peers.”
Daydreams are the things we hope for and nightmares are the things we fear the most, while the fourth type of dreams are snow dreams, he said.
“Snow dreams are the quiet dreams you have when no one else is around – the deepest most important ones,” Harris said. “They are the dreams you want to chase, but are afraid to say out loud, in fear that someone may destroy them.”
Harris said his idea of becoming a writer and writing his first novel came in the form of a snow dream.
“I was always a social person who could never be alone,” he said. “Here I am now with the most solitary profession a person could have. I have no other choice but to spend my days and evenings alone. Through this, I have learned what I love most about myself.”
Harris said he was not able to achieve this state of being personally content without addressing his darkest moments – dealing with an abusive stepfather and the lifelong prejudices he experienced as a black, gay Christian man. He said every experience was necessary in making him who he is today.
“Like E. Lynn, I was emotionally, physically and sexually abused by my stepfather,” said Kevin Wilds of Columbus. “His books bring some things home for me. It was very cathartic and therapeutic to see how another black, gay man dealt with the same issues.”
Brett Beemyn, coordinator of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services, said visits from people like Harris are vital to OSU.
“So few openly GLBT people of color come to Ohio State,” he said. “It’s important to bring someone like E. Lynn Harris in to address those issues.”
Through his writing, Harris has been able to not only help those who are dealing with similar past experiences, but also to address a universal audience. He urged anyone who had not thought about a snow dream to start.
“Find something you’re willing to do for free, and then find a way to get paid for it,” Harris said. “That is what passion is all about. I wish you all a life full of passion. More importantly, I wish you a life full of snow dreams everyday, for the rest of your life.”