By Brooklyn White, ESSENCE
We are saddened to report on the January 3 death of New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey. The news was confirmed by his publicist. He was 59 years old.
“I am heart broken. My cousin, Eric Jerome Dickey passed away on yesterday,” wrote La Verne Madison Fuller on social media. “Guys, when God tells you to do something, just do it. Just a few weeks ago, God woke me up to text him and say that I loved him. He let me know that he loved us too.”
Dickey was the man behind several classic books about the more tender realities of Black life, including “Sister, Sister,” “Friends & Lovers” and “Between Lovers.” In 2020, “Sister, Sister” was honored by Essence as one of the 50 most impactful books of the past 50 years.
Over 7 million of his books have been published worldwide.
Dickey was a native of Memphis, Tennessee and attended Memphis State University. He began writing stories in 1989, 7 years before his debut novel was published. At the time, he was still working as an engineer, following through on his college major.
After leaving the engineering field to work as a comedian and actor, Dickey moved to Los Angeles. He wrote his own comedic material, deepening his connection to writing.
It was through his work that many Black people were able to feel seen and an outpouring of love has began on social media since the news broke of his death.
“I am truly saddened to hear about the passing of Eric Jerome Dickey,” author Roxane Gay wrote on Twitter. “His were some of the first novels I ever read about black people that weren’t about slavery of civil rights. He was a great storyteller.”
Journalist Ernest Owens also paid tribute, writing, “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.”
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
— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) January 5, 2021
In a 2019 interview, Dickey spoke on the purpose behind his stories. “I don’t intentionally write a book with an idea of ‘the moral to this story is,’ because I’m more focused on letting the people in the book live,” he said. “I just try to do my best. I never know if I’ve hit the nail on the head, if it’s really worked, until I put it out there for people to read.”
We are sending love to Dickey’s family and all those that knew him.
This article originally appeared on ESSENCE.