Penny was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Her parents instilled and fostered her love of reading, and their interest in the events that would become The Civil Rights Movement opened the door to her interest in journalism, an interest that led her to pursue a career as a newspaper, radio and television reporter primarily in Washington, DC.
Penny has been a teacher of both children and adults: She taught journalism and put out the newspaper at a charter middle school in Los Angeles; and she was an Adult Literacy Coordinator with the Adult Literacy Program of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Penny’s many books reflect her continued interest in the things that sparked her imagination as a child: History and Mystery. She writes the Mimi Patterson/Gianna Maglione Mysteries, five books and counting, published by Bywater Books. She has two novels of historical fiction, and more to come! And in a what’s-old-is-new-again move, her recently published collection of short stories (BLF Press) is a return to her roots. Penny lives in Los Angeles, California. Her favorite activities are—no kidding—reading and writing. She also loves travel, yoga and swimming.
Penny is the recipient of the Audre Lorde Estate Grant and a Residency at the Hedgebrook Women Writers Retreat. She was also a 2019 Inductee with the Washington Post Metro Seven into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.
Two Wings to Fly Away
The Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the US Congress in 1850. Abolitionists nicknamed it the “Bloodhound Law.”
In 1856 Philadelphia, a cross-dressing slave named Genie Oliver uses her dress shop as a front for her work with the Underground Railroad. Reluctant white heiress Abby Read runs a rooming house, not only because she rejects the life of an idle society woman, but because she has no intention ever to marry a man. When the young daughter of Abby’s free Black servant, Maggie, is recovered after being grabbed by rogue slave catchers, Abby connects with Genie, a white Pinkerton’s agent, and an unlikely cast of characters from all walks of life. The diverse group risks everything when they join forces to protect the great abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s effort to guide escaped slaves to freedom.
While racial and economic tensions begin to boil over across the country, Abby and Genie discover a profound friendship, a shared purpose—and the promise of something more. Two Wings to Fly Away paints a stunning portrait of a divided nation hurtling toward Civil War, set against a backdrop of courage, community, and the healing power of love.
Praise for Two Wings to Fly Away
“Historical fiction like this doesn’t come around often and it shouldn’t be missed.”
—Lambda Literary Review
“Penny writes with such elegant prose that she stands as one of America’s more important literary artists of the day. She continues to have that magical ability to draw the reader into her well-sculpted storylines while at the same time creating a significant commentary on the issues she so rightly finds important. She is a powerful presence.”
—Grady Harp, San Francisco Review of Books
“If it sounds Two Wings to Fly Away has a lot going on, that’s because it does. However, the information is delivered so carefully and deliberately that it’s easy to follow and get engrossed by all the different threads of the story. The writing style is often lyrical and almost cinematic, delivering a clear picture of Genie, Ezra and the rest of the cast of characters as they go through their days in Philadelphia of so long ago. Hollywood, take note: This book would make a fabulous film.”
—Tara Scott, Lambda Literary Review
God’s Will and Other Lies
In this stunning departure from her mystery writing, Penny Mickelbury’s collection of stories attends to the lives of Black women, mostly aging and elderly, all determined to face life with strength and grace.
A nearly blind woman is determined to venture out into the world alone and must face the consequences of her travels. A woman estranged from her community ponders the meaning of hearsay and its devastating consequences. A middle-aged woman leaves the danger of the city only to find it lurking in her back yard. And in the collection’s novella, Mickelbury follows the lives of a southern family as they strive for success amidst the violence and uncertainty of 1960s Detroit.
In beautiful and exacting prose, Mickelbury gives voice to an often-overlooked coterie of women in this superb collection of short fiction.
Praise for God’s Will and Other Lies
—2019 Google Alert Selection
“Mickelbury moves across the South and through time, wielding characters that interact at the heart of some of the most powerful moments in American history. (Her) great narrative knack lies in her intersection of the personal with the political. (Her) characters strive and fight within the institutions of family, faith, and history, where each has the power to redeem or destroy. Political, personal, and multivoiced, these stories cross genres, from literary short stories to African American literature to historical fiction. That scope is part of what makes God’s Will and Other Lies so powerful”
—Camille-Yvette Welsch, Foreword Reviews
Police Lieutenant Gianna Maglione heads up the DC Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit. Her world is turned upside down when one of her officers becomes the victim of a brutal hate crime, and her girlfriend is targeted for a hit because of a story she is pursuing.
Mimi Patterson is the lead investigative reporter for Washington’s top newspaper. She digs deep and asks the hard questions. When events collide to render her unable—or perhaps unwilling—to pursue the big, sometimes dangerous stories, she finds herself on the edge of an emotional precipice.
After many years confronting so much ugliness and hatred head on, Mimi and Gianna are forced to come to terms with the price exacted for their commitments to their jobs—and to each other. The voices of the victims provoke them to reaffirm all they are denied simply because of who they are and what they do.
Praise for Death’s Echoes
—2019 Bronze Medal Winner in the National Suspense/Thriller Category
—Independent Publisher Book Awards
—2019 Goldie Award Finalist/Mystery-Thriller Category, Golden Crown Literary Society
“With years of each pursuing the truth behind them, and at times finding themselves at odds on just how to do so, will Gianna and Mimi’s relationship survive? Will Gianna and Mimi themselves survive? Penny Mickelbury is an exceptional writer and deserves the accolades that she has received throughout her career. This book was impactful, respectful, and thought provoking.”
—Erin Hodgson, The Lesbian Review
“A rip-snorter of a procedural that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up. It’s a finely wrought package sure to please fans of the (Mimi/Gianna) series and bring news ones into the fold.”
—Jerry Wheeler, Out in Print
This interracial, intergenerational saga of love, land and loss is told from the disparate perspectives of Ruth Thatcher, who is black, and Jonas Thatcher, who is white, and spans near a century. The story begins in 1917 when Ruth and Jonas are farm children in rural Georgia and ends in 2005 as their descendants struggle to unravel and understand the legacies of this star-crossed pair. During the course of their lifetimes, Ruth and Jonas—and their families—have evolved and ultimately have prospered, but it is left for the descendants to come to grips with the long-unacknowledged truth that the two families are actually one.
—2014 Indies Finalist
“An ambitious and provocative novel….A breathtakingly amazing read”