Steven Corbin; Novelist and AIDS Activist

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Steven Corbin, promising novelist, AIDS activist and advocate for black gay writers, has died. He was 41.

Corbin, who lived and worked in Los Angeles for nearly two decades, died Thursday in New York City from complications of AIDS.

His first novel, “No Easy Place to Be,” published to mixed reviews in 1989, described the lives of three sisters during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s as they mingled with real-life writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, actor Paul Robeson and others.


“I wanted to say something about black writers,” Corbin told The Times. “. . . The only thing we remember about the Harlem Renaissance is the Cotton Club, where blacks danced and sang and did buffoonery. We do not . . . remember our novelists, our playwrights and our great actors, such as Paul Robeson.”

Critics praised Corbin’s historical accuracy but faulted his dialogue and the interaction of the characters. The neophyte writer was unfazed.

“I never agree with what they say, and I don’t know what they look for. So I don’t worry about that,” he told The Times, whose Sunday magazine described him in 1989 as one of Southern California’s “cultural rising stars.”

Corbin subsequently wrote “Fragments That Remain” in 1993, telling the story of an African American family whose eldest son has an interracial homosexual love affair, and “A Hundred Days From Now” in 1994, describing two lovers dealing with AIDS.

The writer was nominated for a 1994 Lambda Literary Award in the category of gay male fiction.