Since learning of the death of the best-selling author Eric Jerome Dickey, I’ve thought a great deal about the nature of Black storytelling. Black American novelists, in particular, tread a dichotomous path: Part of the landscape festers with the trauma wounds passed down from enslaved ancestors, wounds opened daily by driving, jogging, sleeping, birding, playing with toy guns, selling loosies, eating Skittles, or listening to music. The other part of the landscape blooms with a soulful, buoyant, resilient, glorious nature—that inestimable thing called Black joy.
Eric Jerome Dickey’s work is a master class in Black joy. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1961, Dickey, who died at the age of 59 on January 3, took a circuitous path to storytelling. He first embarked on a career as a software developer, and later forayed into stand-up comedy, where he discovered, while preparing scripts for his acts, that writing came naturally to him. Dickey would go on to become a prolific multigenre author, writing a comic-book miniseries for Marvel and selling more than 7 million copies of fiction that included romance, erotica, and suspense. In all, he published 29 books. His 30th, The Son of Mr. Suleman, will be released in April.