Ellen Douglas has passed away. The Mississippi author, whose novel Apostles of Light was a 1973 National Book Award nominee, was 91 years old.
Douglas, who cited fellow Mississippi native William Faulkner as a literary influence, was actually just the pen name of Josephine Ayres Haxton.
She took a pseudonym to guard the privacy of her family.
For good reason, it turned out. Douglas' Mississippi-set work dealt candidly with race relations, families and the role of women, and was controversial.
Douglas grew up in Hope, Ark., and Alexandria, La., and spent summers with her grandparents in Natchez, Miss., where the family's roots reached back generations.
She graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1942. She wrote 11 books, including six novels and several collections of short stories and essays.
Apostles of Light is a complex novel about the mistreatment of residents at a home for the elderly in fictional Homochitto, Miss., the town in many of her works.
"If you don't have conflict, you don't have fiction," Douglas told The AP in a 2005 interview about race relations and other forces that helped shape literature.
State Rep. Steve Holland, a funeral director handling arrangements, said Douglas died after an extended illness. He said she would be buried in her native Natchez.