Who was Eric Jerome Dickey? Roxane Gay, Ernest Owens mourn death of author who 'revolutionized' Black portrayal

The author whose work has been featured on the New York Times Bestselling list died at 59 on January 3 after ‘battling a long illness’

                            Who was Eric Jerome Dickey? Roxane Gay, Ernest Owens mourn death of author who 'revolutionized' Black portrayal
Author Eric Jerome Dickey signs copies of his novel 'Thieves', 'Paradise' (Getty Images)

Eric Jerome Dickey, an author whose work featured on the New York Times Bestselling list, died at 59 on January 3 after ‘battling a long illness’, confirmed the author's publicist Essence on Twitter. They wrote, "#ESSENCE is saddened to report the passing of famed author, Eric Jerome Dickey. Dickey was an ESSENCE and New York Times best-selling author best known for his novels about contemporary African-American life. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Some of his popular works include 'The Business of Lovers' and 'Before we were Wicked'. Dickey, before becoming an author explored acting and stand up comedy. Before that he was employed in the aerospace industry - working at Rockwell International, ASSD division. He first began publishing short stories and in 1994 his first work 'Thirteen' was published in 'River crossings: Voices of the Diaspora' - an anthology on the international Black experience. His second short story to be published was titled, 'Days Gone By', which was published in the magazine called 'A Place to Enter'. 

Having authored over 15 novels and more novellas, Dickey's work was featured in Blackboard and The Wall Street Journal best-selling list as well. Dickey had also worked with Marvel on a six-issue miniseries of comic books featuring Storm and Black Panther T'Challa. This six-issue series reimagines a meeting between 'X-Men' character Ororo Munroe and T'Challa.

His death is being mourned by fans the world over and many are also speaking about how his work revolutionized the way Black life was portrayed. Sy Smith wrote on Twitter, "Nooooo!!! I just sent him a little gift a couple of weeks ago! He said he wanted one of my RoseFist coffee mugs so I put one in the mail for him the next day! He was such a huge supporter of my music! Even included me in one of his books! My heart is completely broken right now."

Roxane Gay, author of New York Times column 'Bad Feminist', also wrote, "I am truly saddened to hear about the passing of Eric Jerome Dickey. His were some of the first novels I ever read about black people that weren’t about slavery or civil rights. He was a great storyteller." Ernest Owens also tweeted, "Eric Jerome Dickey was one of the first 'grown folks' book authors I used to sneak to read when I was in middle school. A unique literary voice that left a mark in Black culture for ever. #RIP" A fan tweeted, "#EJD is my favorite author of all time. RIP my hero. Your words will forever live in my heart and on my bookshelf."








Another fan wrote, "I discovered his writing in the middle of a nasty divorce. I loved his books. He had some of the first ‘grown up’ books, African American Fiction. There wasn’t a lot of published AA fiction or romance then. I’m sad today. #RIPEricJeromeDickey." One tweeted, "Last year, @adena_andrews @TNicolePR and I had a mini EJD classic book club at the top of quarantine to relive some memories (hilarious group chat convos & discussion points). We didn’t know how much we needed that. The news of this stings." Another fan wrote, "Wooow.... I’m so sad to read this. I have loved Eric’s work since I was in my early 20’s. He got me into writing. Damn. RIP, Eric. A black romance writing GOAT. To me, anyway."




Dickey's writing has been translated in French, Polish, and Japanese and two of his works -- 'Friends and Lovers', 'Cheaters' -- were also adapted into touring plays. According to an interview in April 2019, the author had hinted about more of his works slated to release in 2021. He also stated that he was worried about his work becoming dated in the face of the pandemic and how it has changed relationships and interpersonal dynamics across the globe. He said, "The stuff that you do for the next 30 days impacts your next 30 years. It's not a hoax. And if it is, this is the best global hoax since they broadcast War of the Worlds on the radio. This would make Orson Welles stand up and applaud."

He had added, "What it does to business remains to be seen. I've got a couple of other projects that are due to come out later or next year, but you've had this watershed moment, this global event, that now really dates your writing." Then mused, "There's going to be pre-corona and post-corona. If you a see a movie with people at the airport walking somebody to the gates, you're like, 'Oh, that happened before 9/11.'"

Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.