Dickey, Eric Jerome 19(?)(?)–

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Eric Jerome Dickey 19(?)(?)


Layoff Sparked Writing Career

Third Novel Addressed Interracial Romance


Eric Jerome Dickey has found a large reading audience with his novels that shatter stereotypes about blacks as they explore complex relationships between the sexes. As noted in a review of his novel Milk in My Coffee in a 1998 issue of Publishers Weekly, Dickey demonstrates an easy mastery of dialogue and voice and a cheerful, wittily acerbic eye for the troubles that plague lovers in the 1990s. Sometimes compared to the popular author Terry McMillan, Dickey has also demonstrated an ability to create highly realistic female charactersa rarity for a male author.

While Dickeys novels have focused on the ups and downs of love in all its forms, they manage to find humor in the foibles and follies of romance. They also celebrate the incredible power of friendship to heal emotional wounds and pave the road to true and lasting relationships. This Dickey-esque approach has made him immensely popular with readers, who eagerly buy up his latest works and appear in droves at his book signings.

As a child growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, Dickey demonstrated no special talent or avid interest in writing. Upon graduating from Carver High School, he set his sights on a career in engineering rather than the arts and earned a degree in computer system technology at Memphis State University (later known as the University of Memphis). After college Dickey moved to Los Angeles to take a job as a software developer for Rockwell, an aerospace company that later became part of Boeing. While spending the next nine years doing technical writing, Dickey found that his artistic side kept rising to the surface. He satisfied this urge by pursuing various acting roles and also appearing as a stand-up comedian. Eventually his comedy stints put him in front of a microphone at clubs across the west, from Seattle, Washington, to San Antonio, Texas.

Layoff Sparked Writing Career

Dickeys extracurricular activities assumed a more prominent role in his life when a recession hit the aerospace industry in the early 1990s and put him out of work as a result of company downsizing. At this time Dickey began devoting more time to writing, especially poetry and short stones. Id written a few shorts in high

At a Glance

Born in Memphis, TN. Education: Memphis State University {now University of Memphis), B.S., Computer System Technology.

Career: Hired as software developer by Rockwell, Los Angeles, CA, 1983; began getting work as actor and stand-up comedian; started writing short stories and poetry, 1990s; worked as middle school teacher; joined and participated in workshops of the International Black Writers and Artists; published his first short story, 1994; wrote screenplay called Cappuccino; published first novel with Dutton (Sister, Sister), 1996; published Friends and Lovers, 1997; published Milk in My Coffee, 1998.

Awards and honors: Number #1, Blackboard Bestsellers List, Essence magazine (Sister, Sister; Friends and Lovers), 1996, 1997.

Addresses: HomeLos Angeles, CA; PublisherButton, 3 75 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014,212-366-2215.

school, nothing great, but during the time I was about to get laid off, I sat back and recaptured that,he told chcmce22 publishing on the Web. Dickey added that he remembered how much fun it was to make something out of nothing, and get ALL of the credit for it.

To help accelerate the evolution of his writing talent, Dickey decided to join the International Black Writers and Artists (IBWA) association and enroll in some some of their workshops. He then earned an IBWA SEED scholarship for taking creative writing classes at the University of California at Los Angeles. Before long Dickey had published his first short story, a piece entitled Thirteen that appeared in an IBWA publication called River Crossing, Voices of the Diaspora: An Anthology of the International Black Experience. He followed this up with another short story, Days Gone By, that was published in the magazine A Place to Enter. These successes led Dickey to reexamine some pieces he had written earlier, out of which evolved a screenplay called Cappuccino that was later filmed and aired in coffeehouses around the Los Angeles area.

Major recognition came Dickeys way with the publication of his first novel, Sister, Sister, by Dutton of the Penguin Putnam Inc. publishing group in 1996. The book made it to #1 on the Blackboard Bestsellers List featured in Essence magazine and earned the author legions of fans coast to coast. Hailed for its wit and vibrant characters, Sister, Sister tells the story of three young black women in Los Angeles whose relationships with men and each other intersect in complicated and comedie ways as their lives both come apart and come together. Dickey tantalized readers with strange entanglements such as two good friends who, each unbeknownst to the other, are being cheated on by the same man. The authors shifting of points of view in the story between the three major characters confirmed his ability to convey different types of women. Remarkably, Dickey is able both to create believable female characters and to explore the sister-sister relationship with genuine insight, noted Lillian Lewis in her review in Booklist.

One year later, Dickey struck literary gold again with Friends and Lovers, also published by Dutton. Second novelist Dickey more than fulfills the promise shown in Sister, Sister (1996), again offering real characters and invigorating, believable dialogue, praised Kirk us Reviews in its assessment of the book. In this novel, Dickey explored the lives of two young black men and two young black women whose love lives take them on a roller coaster ride. Filled with comedie misunderstandings that threaten to derail both budding and established romances, Friends and Lovers once again offered chapters in the voices of each character and lots of engagingly trendy dialogue (Publishers Weekly). Clearly, Dickey borrowed from his own life for this story, as the characters include a computer-company executive and an aspiring stand-up comedian. The importance of friendship is a key theme of the book, especially its power to overcome tragedy. Issues such as how to recognize when a romance is for real, when and when not to have sex, and when to get married are handled deftly by Dickey in what Publishers Weekly called another sexy, sophisticated portrayal of hip black L.A. Dickeys second novel repeated the success of Sister, Sister by also making it to #1 on Essences Blackboard Bestsellers List.

Third Novel Addressed Interracial Romance

Continuing on his book-a-year pace, Dickey came out with Milk in My Coffee in 1998. This aptly titled work dealt with a black man named Jordan Greene who begins dating a white woman and must deal with the negative reactions of his own black friends. When his pal Solomon tells him, If you go white stay outta sight, Jordan tries to figure out what his own values are regarding romance that crosses the color line. Dickey goes far beyond the stereotypes, infusing all his characters with complex emotional lives, wrote Ron Hogan in his review of the book for the Amazon.com site on the Web. Booklist noted that the book confirmed Dickeys continuing maturation as a writer, saying that this story is definitely more developed than his two previous novels.

In 1998, Dickeys Cappucino was shown in the Pan African Film Festival at the Magic Johnson Theater in Los Angeles, and has since been aired in other film festivals. He also began work on another novel entitled Cheaters: Caught Up in the Game, and a film version of his Friends and Lovers is under development. Dickey has appeared as a guest on Black Entertainment Televisions (BET) Our Voices, CNNs Sunday Morning Live, C-SPANs televised Booksellers Convention, several other cable television programs, and numerous radio talk shows such as the KJLH-102.3 FM morning show in Los Angeles. He is an active runner and also holds a black belt in karate. When asked by chance22 publishing what his future literary plans were, Dickey responded, Write, write, then when Im done, write some more.



Booklist, September 15, 1996, p. 220; September 1, 1997, pp. 5657.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1996; September 1, 1997;September 1, 1998.

Publishers Weekly, September 1, 1997, pp. 9293; July 6, 1998, p. 47.


Additional information for this profile was obtained from publicity materials provided Dutton, as well as from the chance22 publishing and Amazon.com sites on the World Wide Web.

Ed Decker

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