Mary Monroe is the third child of Alabama sharecroppers, and the first and only member of her family to finish high school. Mary never attended college or any writing classes. She spent the first part of her life in Alabama and Ohio, moved to Richmond, California in 1973, and has lived in Oakland since 1984. Her first novel, The Upper Room, was published in 1985 and was widely reviewed throughout the U.S. and in Great Britain. She is a recipient of the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award for her novel God Don't Like Ugly.