Beloved author Eric Jerome Dickey passed away on Sunday, January 3, Essence reports. The New York Times bestselling author, who was 59 years old, had been battling an illness, his publicist confirmed. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Dickey began writing stories in 1989 and saw his first work, Sister, Sister, published in 1996. Dickey was celebrated for illustrating Black life as it was, without mentions of slavery and civil rights or falling into what many readers saw as stereotypes of Black storytelling.
Roxane Gay and journalist Ernest Owens paid their respects on Twitter, along with a number of other fans, expressing their sadness over the loss of a favorite author and a prominent Black voice. Dickey published 29 novels before his death.
In an interview with Bookpage, Dickey explained that his entire career was built on experimentation and the hopes that his characters could simply live without falling into literary tropes.
"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."
Yvette Hayward's African American Literary Awards Show honored Dickey with its 2007 Fiction and Author of the Year awards for Sleeping with Strangers. In 2009, he won Fiction of the Year for Dying for Revenge. His novels Blackbirds and Finding Gideon also garnered awards.
In addition to literary fiction, Dickey worked with Marvel Comics on 2007's STORM, a re-imagining of the character's first meeting (and subsequent romance) with Black Panther.
Dickey is survived by his four daughters.
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