PJ Devlin

PJ Devlin grew up in Flourtown, PA, outside of Philadelphia, near the Wissahickon Creek and spent much of her childhood wet and muddy. She wrote her first book of short stories at six-years-old old and has been writing stories ever since — except for a thirty-year break to earn a PhD in economics, serve as financial manager for the Fairfax County, VA Fire and Rescue Department, and raise four children with her husband, John. Her longstanding avocation as a follower of youth soccer and summer swim competition continues with a new Devlin generation of kickers and swimmers.
In pursuit of her lifelong dream of writing fiction, PJ studied creative writing at George Mason University and earned the MFA in 2011.

In 2017, her published novels include Wissahickon Souls, and Becoming Jonika – a coming of age story set in the tumultuous year, 1969. Wishes Sins and the Wissahickon Creek is her short story collection. Other short stories have been published in print and online.

 Listen to PJ on A Kind Voice About Books.

Download a Reader’s Guide to Wissahickon Souls with discussion questions. 

About Wissahickon Souls:
Her first novel, Wissahickon Souls, published September 2014, fills a gap in American memory that marginalizes 19th-century African-American lives. Set in Philadelphia and Haiti during the years 1806 to 1836, Wissahickon Souls shows how a culture of racial prejudice contaminates the relationship of even well-meaning people. All the while, the Wissahickon Creek wends its way equally through the lives of blacks and whites. Claire Penniman is an improbable hero who defies racial expectations. Born to free black parents, she is indentured to Wissahickon Farm at the age of 6. From her birth in 1806 in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia to the story’s end in 1836, Clair struggles to forge a future determined by the call of her soul rather than the color of her skin. Along the way, she confronts slave catchers, helps fugitive slaves, marries her indenture holder’s youngest son and with him, runs away to Haiti, where their marriage is accepted. After 10 years, in 1834 they return to a Philadelphia beset by riots and hate. Wissahickon Souls is a story of love, regret and reconciliation. The novel invites readers to walk alongside characters they come to know as friends. Though Claire’s world defines people by the color of their skin, Claire’s destiny is to bear witness to the truth that illuminates the color of souls.

Though the book is fiction, an extensive amount of research went into the writing of this book. If you would like to know more about this period in history or read some of the source materials, you can download the Works Cited here

About Becoming Jonika:
After she meets nineteen-year-old Ishmael, Joni Byrnes stops caring about home, school, and swim team. Instead, she embraces Ishmael’s hippy lifestyle of music, pot, and Hermann Hesse. When she sells marijuana for Ishmael, Joni gains notoriety as Joni Juana — but her new found popularity ends in a bust. While Ishmael goes to prison, Joni avoids juvenile detention by agreeing to spend the summer of 1969 at Camp Saint Augustine of Hippo teaching inner-city black kids to swim. Joni arrives at camp with two joints stuffed in the pockets of her cutoffs. As the only white counselor, she’s greeted with: “You couldn’t find no crackers to save?” In a year marked by the Vietnam War, pressure for civil rights, the Manson Family murders, the first moonwalk, and three days of peace and music at Woodstock, Joni’s choices dictate her future. When the end of camp is only a week away, Joni’s decision to smoke a joint jeopardizes the respect she’s earned and the agreement that kept her out of juvie. BECOMING JONIKA is a gripping novel about coming of age during a time of cultural upheaval and re-imagination of the American dream. At its heart, it’s a story of alienation, acceptance, and accountability.
About Wishes, Sins and the Wissahickon Creek, a collection of short stories: wishes sins cover 3
The outskirts of Philadelphia form the backdrop for this collection of captivating stories. A master crafter, Devlin weaves threads of emotions into patches of betrayal, regret and guilt, stitched together in the fabric of dreams. These stories resonate with the power of recognition and remembrance. Devlin’s characters may slip as they maneuver life’s torments, but their journeys through the unmapped terrains of their lives ultimately lead them to the refuge of acceptance and reconciliation.

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