My mother should have been a teacher. It was her that truly cemented my love of reading. It was through her love of fashion and nice things, that I began reading ESSENCE magazine. In ESSENCE, through there book review section, I came across Eric Jerome Dickey.
Now, this was the late 1990’s, and he was just gaining popularity and success! I purposed in myself that I would start reading his books. The beautiful thing I found in Eric’s work was how he –as a Black man–wrote about Black women.
We weren’t caricatures. We weren’t stereotypes. The Black women he wrote about were complex. They were beautiful! They were vibrant and alive. Eric Jerome Dickey was truly a storyteller–and that endeared me to his work. Of course there were people whom wanted to read his book, wanted to borrow mine and I wanted to borrow theirs! The presumption about writers –especially when they are Black!–is that you assume they will always be here to write.
The thing about what Eric Jerome Dickey was he elevated Black fiction. Too often the white gaze will tell or show the world that Black writers can only write about Urban Fiction (and I still to this day, do not not like the term Urban Fiction–I think it’s coded language for ‘only Black people read and write this.’), and nothing else.
Eric didn’t do that.
He gave Black life, Black people and their experiences color and a life that made you forget it was a book! This is the power of good writing with the rocket fuel of storytelling! Eric Jerome Dickey did this…so well. He will be so missed. The beautiful thing is when a writer dies, like any other artist, there is a legacy which soothes that grief.
I miss him. Thinking of him in past tense is heartbreaking, and unnerving. And at the same time, he isn’t truly gone, is he?
No. No, he isn’t.
[image from Essence]