Monroe, Mary 1951–
Monroe, Mary 1951–
Born December 12, 1951, in Toxey, AL; daughter of Otis, Sr. and Ocie Mae (present surname, Bonner) Nicholson; married Joseph Monroe, January 19, 1969 (divorced, 1973); children: Michelle, Jacquelyn. Ethnicity: "African American." Politics: Democrat. Religion: Baptist.
PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Award, for God Don't Like Ugly; Best New Southern Fiction Award, Memphis Black Authors Group, for Gonna Lay down My Burdens.
The Upper Room, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985, reprinted, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2001.
God Don't Like Ugly, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Gonna Lay down My Burdens, Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2002.
God Still Don't Like Ugly, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Red Light Wives, Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2004.
In Sheep's Clothing, Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2005.
God Don't Play, Dafina/Kensington (New York, NY), 2006.
(With Victor McGlothin) Borrow Trouble (includes Trouble in Paradise), Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Deliver Me from Evil, Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Has also contributed short stories and other writings to periodicals, including Reader's Digest and Bronze Thrills.
The daughter of Alabama share croppers, Mary Monroe began her love of reading and writing as a child and earned her first money writing for publications such as Reader's Digest when she was still a teenager. Her first book, The Upper Room, was published in 1985 and reprinted in 2001. It tells the story of Mama Ruby, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter who has healing powers. When she brings a friend's baby back to life, she runs off with the child to the Everglades and pampers the young Maureen, who eventually grows into a beautiful woman who wants to move back to civilization. Lillian Lewis, writing in Booklist, called The Upper Room "a chilling story that is bound to astound Monroe's fans."
The fact that Monroe has fans to appreciate the reissued novel is due to the author's perseverance. It took her fifteen years to get her second novel, God Don't Like Ugly, published. Her third novel, Gonna Lay down My Burdens, is a romance featuring Carmen, a woman from Belle Helene, Alabama, who is engaged to wheelchair-confined Burl but has long had a crush on Chester. Although she fulfills her fantasy one night with Chester, Carmen ends up in trouble with the law after helping a friend. Booklist contributor Megan Kalan noted that the author's "richly drawn characters will stay with readers long after the book is finished." Writing in Black Issues Book Review, Robin Green-Cary commented that the author "does [an] artful job of fleshing out intriguing, complex characters."
In the sequel to God Don't Like Ugly, titled God Still Don't Like Ugly, Annette Goode—who appeared in the first book—travels from Ohio to Miami to meet her estranged father and, in the process, meets and falls in love with a man named Jerome. However, prior to her marriage to Jerome, an uncle reveals that Annette once worked as a prostitute. God Don't Play, is another novel featuring Annette, her family, and her friends. Happily married to Pee Wee Davis, Annette now has a nine-year-old daughter named Charlotte. Everything seems to be going well in Annette's life until she starts receiving threatening phone calls that also make her suspect her husband of infidelity. In a review in Publishers Weekly, a contributor noted that the author "squeezes everything she can from this novel's melodramatic plot." Library Journal contributor Opalisa L. Jones wrote that Monroe "once again skillfully delivers a crafty story wrapped around a host of heartwarming characters."
Red Light Wives is the story of six different women who have all worked as prostitutes. Arin M. Lawrence, writing in Black Issues Book Review, commented that Monroe "vividly details the paths leading to and the troubles inherent in the oldest profession." In Sheep's Clothing, Monroe tells the story of downtrodden Bell, who seeks a new life, which she hopes will begin with her new job at the Bon Voyage Travel Agency. However, Bell soon finds herself in conflict with the only other black woman working at the agency, and soon her jealously leads her into trouble. Writing in Booklist, Lillian Lewis referred to the novel as "another page-turner about human frailties," while Library Journal contributor Laurie A. Cavanaugh noted that Monroe "deals with race, class, and gender issues."
Monroe and Victor McGlothin each contributed a short novel to Borrow Trouble. Monroe's novelette Nightmare in Paradise features a "perfect" grade-school teacher named Renee. After learning from her best friend that the woman had sex with her husband before Renee married him, Renee ends up having a one-night stand in the Caribbean and getting arrested for prostitution. A Publishers Weekly contributor referred to the novel as an "earnest melodrama."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, September-October, 2002, Robin Green-Cary, review of Gonna Lay down My Burdens, p. 31; January-February, 2005, Arin M. Lawrence, review of Red Light Wives, p. 65; January-February, 2006, Myisha Priest, review of In Sheep's Clothing, p. 60.
Booklist, September 15, 2001, Lillian Lewis, review of The Upper Room, p. 193; September 1, 2002, Megan Kalan, review of Gonna Lay down My Burdens, p. 69; October 1, 2003, Lillian Lewis, review of God Still Don't Like Ugly, p. 300; August, 2005, Lillian Lewis, review of In Sheep's Clothing, p. 1994; August 1, 2006, Lillian Lewis, review of God Don't Play, p. 43.
Ebony, January, 2006, review of In Sheep's Clothing, p. 31; December, 2006, review of Borrow Trouble, p. 42.
Library Journal, September 1, 2006, Laurie A. Cavanaugh, review of In Sheep's Clothing, p. 132, and Opalisa L. Jones, review of God Don't Play, p. 138.
Publishers Weekly, June 5, 2006, review of God Don't Play, p. 36; September 11, 2006, review of Borrow Trouble, p. 34.
Mary Monroe Home Page,http://www.marymonroe.org (April 14, 2007).