Payback by Penny Mickelbury


This item will be released February 18, 2025.

Award-winning author Penny Mickelbury takes readers on a beautiful, complicated journey through Harlem in 1953. This captivating story is passionate and alive, teeming with contradictory joy and pain of Black life in America.


World War II ended less than 10 years ago, and the Korean War less than one. But no one has recovered from wartime privations, especially the Colored soldiers who fought a ruthless enemy on foreign lands, expecting to return home with all the rights and privileges of American citizenship.

But those rights and privileges remain few and far between, and Mickelbury’s cast of characters find themselves reflecting on the Harlem they call home: they are educated and unschooled; wealthy and desperately poor; committed to improving circumstances for Negroes and abjectly hopeless. They create a family of and for themselves—women, men, children, gays, and the proudly self-named. They commit themselves to helping create a world to benefit their people based on hard work, artistic expression, and faith in their community.

They have learned to live in the larger world by the guiding principles: Each One Teaches One, and Harm to One is Harm to All—because in this neighborhood, payback will always be swift and painful.

PENNY MICKELBURY is a trailblazing author and an award-winning playwright. She is a two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, was a writer in residence at Hedgebrook Women Writers Retreat, and is a recipient of the Audre Lorde Estate Grant. In 2001 she was awarded the Gold Pen Award for Best Mystery/Thriller from the Black Writers Alliance, and the Prix du Roman d’Adventures from Les Éditions du Masque. In 2017, she was commissioned by the Jo Howarth Noonan Foundation for the Performing Arts to write a ten-minute play in celebration of “women of a certain age”. Before focusing on literary pursuits, Penny was a pioneering newspaper, radio, and television reporter, based primarily in Washington, D.C., wrote journalistic non-fiction, and was a frequent contributor to such publications as Black Issues Book Review,, and the Washington Blade.

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