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Sunday, April 14, 2024

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#ACCESS901: ‘Eric’ told ‘our’ stories

Joy Doss: (Photo: Demarcus Bowser)

By now most bibliophiles, fellow word nerds and Eric Jerome Dickey super fans have heard of his untimely passing.

Memphis born and beloved by many, Eric will leave lasting footprints in the sand, never to be erased or replaced.

 Oddly enough, I met Eric not in Memphis but in New York as I was working (and still do) on the African American Literary Awards. He was very close to my friend Yvette, who also is the founder and executive producer of the awards. 

I don’t profess that I knew him well, but on the occasion that we crossed paths, we connected as Memphian. He was very sweet and friendly. 

I am prone to always remember kindness and authenticity. In a world of clout chasers and social climbers (NY and LA in particular), these attributes stand out. 

Whether it was a warm hug or big ole bright smile, I will appreciate him beyond his words. 

Now I really gotta get you Eric for not hollering at ya’ girl the last time you were in town! 

So wishing we had that additional touch point now. But I really thought we’d see each other again in New York. 

I will also always appreciate his kinship with my dear friend Yvette (Hayward). He supported her personally and professionally with the awards for many years and in many ways. 

She said, “Eric Jerome Dickey was a literary legend, a literary icon. He was the sweetest man you could ever meet, with a heart of gold.

“He was the type of man who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed help, without even fully knowing you. He always wanted to see people win.

“Even when in the face of challenging or undermining people, he never retaliated. He was ‘going high’ before Michelle Obama even made it a thing. And sometimes he still extended a hand to those who had previously gone low.

“I remember how he once signed 20 books for a woman at a book signing to the dismay of me and his handlers. But he said, ‘No, if she took the time to lug these books all the way here, I will sign them!’ That’s who he was. His death leaves a hole in my soul. 

“It will take some time to get use to a world without Eric Jerome Dickey. He was one of my dearest friends, my confidante, my cheerleader. I will forever miss him greatly.” 

For those who don’t know his work, you should absolutely get to know it. He has contributed more to the Black literary canon than even I knew!

He was 29 novels in, with his final work to be released in April.  [NOTE: One of his earlier works, “Milk in My Coffee” was my favorite!] He made the New York Times list several times and more than seven million of his books have been published worldwide over the course of his decades-long career. 

Recently, his book “Sister, Sister” was honored as one of Essence’s 50 Most Impactful Black Books of the Last 50 Years, and USA Today featured him on their list of 100 Black Novelists and Fiction Writers You Should Read. 

Eric Jerome Dickey has been telling our stories for many years. When people were saying black folks don’t read, he, along with a few other writers, said “NAH. We absolutely do and you shall see.” 

Before it was cool and before our voices and our narratives were more widely acknowledged as viable, he gave us stories of love, a lil bit of lust, family dynamics and triumph over tragedy. 

His work was unapologetic before being unabashedly and very publicly black was de rigueur. That was revolutionary at the time! Authors like him paved the way for so many, whether the younger generations realize this or not. Don’t take this freedom and acceptance for granted. Folks like Eric, Terry McMillan, E. Lynn Harris, et al, took the lumps for y’all! 

A wonderfully bright light has been extinguished. My prayer for Eric is a prayer of peace. I pray the ancestors, angels and spirit guides were there to greet him.

I pray that he glided peacefully into the good night with that big ole smile on his face. I pray that his body and spirit are at rest. 

I pray that his children take solace in knowing he lived a great life and made a crater-sized impact on this world and in publishing. 

I know that he will continue to love on his loved ones from the great beyond. Though he has departed this earthly plane, his words, his works and his legacy live on.

Rest well King, rest well. 

Memphis-born author Eric Jerome Dickey succumbs to illness

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