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Ellen Douglas






Ellen Douglas (Haxton)Ellen Douglas, (July 12, 1921 – November 7, 2012), born Josephine Ayres Haxton, was a Mississippi native whose novel Apostles of Light was a 1973 National Book Award nominee. She wrote 11 books, including six novels and several collections of short stories and essays.

Douglas took a pseudonym to guard the privacy of her family. Douglas' Mississippi-set work dealt candidly with race relations, families and the role of women. She cited fellow Mississippi native William Faulkner as a literary influence.

She was born in Natchez, Mississippi and grew up in Alexandria, Louisiana and Hope, Arkansas, spending summers with her grandparents in Natchez, Mississippi, where the family's roots reached back generations. She graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1942.

Apostles of Light is a complex novel about the mistreatment of residents at a home for the elderly in fictional Homochitto, Mississippi, the town in many of her works.

"If you don't have conflict, you don't have fiction," Douglas told the Associated Press in a 2005 interview about race relations and other forces that helped shape literature.

In a 1980 oral history with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Douglas said she was influence by the "overwhelming hypnotic style" of Faulkner, who was living and writing in Oxford when she was a student there at the University of Mississippi. She said she met him once when she was a student and a couple of times years later, but didn't know him well.

Her 1979 novel, The Rock Cried Out, is about a young Mississippi man whose cousin was killed during the Freedom Summer of 1964, a pivotal time for the civil rights movement in the Deep South state.

Some of her other works were A Family's Affairs and Can't Quit You, Baby.

Douglas won a lifetime achievement award in 2008 from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.

Douglas was writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi from 1979 to 1983. One of her creative writing students was Larry Brown, an Oxford firefighter who later wrote Big Bad Love and other gritty novels set in the South. Brown died in 2004.

Ellen Douglas died after an extended illness on 7th November 2012 in Jackson, where she had lived or the past three decades. She was 91. She is survived by three sons: Richard Haxton, Brooks Haxton and Ayres Haxton, whom she raised in Greenville, Mississippi.






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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024