Two Wings to Fly Away by Penny Mickelbury

When a young black girl is grabbed by rogue slave catchers in 1850s Philadelphia, a runaway slave and a reluctant heiress form an unlikely alliance.



The Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the US Congress 1850—Abolitionists nicknamed it the “Bloodhound Law”.

In 1856 Philadelphia, runaway slave Genie Oliver uses her dress shop as a front for her work with the Underground Railroad; and reluctant heiress Abby Read runs a rooming house not just because she hates the life of the idle rich society woman, but because she has no intention of ever marrying a man. When the young daughter of Abby’s free black servant is grabbed by rogue slave catchers, an unlikely group of people come together, first out of necessity, and then, gradually, in friendship.

And in the case of Abby and Genie, something much more.

“Penny Mickelbury’s Two Wings to Fly Away is a taut and complex historical drama with an unexpected cast of finely drawn characters. A crossdressing runaway slave and a Scottish ex-Pinkerton agent make an unlikely yet crackerjack team facing down kidnappers, blackmailers, slave catchers and other villains. As always, Micklebury tells us a thrilling tale!” —JEWELLE GOMEZ, author, poet, critic and playwright

“Two Wings to Fly Away is a beautifully written, imaginative novel of pre-Civil War era interracial love. Penny Mickelbury transports us to mid-nineteenth century Philadelphia and introduces us to a cast of characters we won’t soon forget: runaway slaves, abolitionists, as well as all of the horrible forces working against them. As usual, her prose is masterful, sprinkled throughout with the slow burn of desire between women, and the precariousness of African American life before the Civil War.”  —STEPHANIE ANDREA ALLEN, A Failure to Communicate

Two Wings to Fly Away makes us care about those who yearn for freedom, despise a system that gives license to hatred and subjugation, and cheer for the love that gives wing to Genie’s greatest happiness.” —CHERYL A. HEAD, author of the Charlie Mack Motown Mystery Series

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”. Prior to 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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