Author of Apostles of Light, Ellen Douglas Dies Aged 91

The well-respected author, Ellen Douglas, has passed away in Jackson, aged 91. She wrote 11 books, including six novels and several collections of short stories and essays.

Having only written a handful of books, Josephine Ayres Haxton, who took the pseudonym Ellen Douglas, came to prominence in 1973, when her novel Apostles of Light was a National Book Award nominee. It was novel about the mistreatment of residents at a home for the elderly in fictional Homochitto, Miss., the town in many of her works. Douglas's writing focussed around race relations, families and the role of women in America. As with many writers, she cited the conflict as the most powerful took in a writer's repertoire. "If you don't have conflict, you don't have fiction," Douglas told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview about the forces that helped shape her literature. Raised in Hope, Ark., and Alexandria, La., she spent summers with her grandparents in Natchez, Miss., where the family's roots lay, and where she was born. She graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1942, where she returned to fulfil the role of writer-in-residence between 1979 and 1983.

Cynthia Shearer, a novelist who is a writing consultant at Texas Christian University, recalls her contact with the late author: "She didn't know me from Adam, but she beamed at me the whole time, telegraphing bravery to me," she recalled." I saw her sitting by herself at a writer's conference one time after I'd published my first novel, and I took my little glass of white wine over to sit with her. She held up her glass of bourbon instructionally, and then eyed my white wine sardonically, and said, 'You got to do better than that.'"


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