Harper introduced Jones's work to Toni Morrison, who was an editor at the time, and in 1975, Jones published her first novel Corregidora at the age of 26. That same year she was a visiting lecturer at the University of Michigan, which hired her the following year as an assistant professor. She left her faculty position in 1983 and moved to Europe, where she wrote and published Die Vogelfaengerin (The Birdwatcher) in Germany and a poetry collection, Xarque and Other Poems. Jones's 1998 novel The Healing was a finalist for the National Book Award, although the media attention surrounding her novel's release focused more on the controversy in her personal life than on the work itself. Her papers are currently housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. Jones currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, where she continues to write.
Jones was born on November 23, 1949 to Franklin and Lucille Jones. She grew up in Speigle Heights, a neighborhood of Lexington, Kentucky, in a house with no indoor toilet. Her father was a restaurant cook and her mother, who wished to be a writer, stayed at home. While at the University of Michigan, Jones met a politically active student, Robert Higgins, who would eventually become her husband. At a gay rights parade in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the early '80's, Higgins claimed to be God and that AIDS was a form of punishment. After being punched by a woman at the parade, he returned with a shotgun and was arrested with a charge that carried four years in jail. Instead of appearing in court to face charges, Jones and Higgins fled the United States to Europe, and Jones resigned from the University of Michigan with a note addressed to President Ronald Reagan that read: "I reject your lying racist [expletive], and I call upon God. Do what you want. God is with Bob and I'm with him."  Some have debated the authorship of the note. In 1988, Jones and Higgins returned back to the United States, but kept their identities hidden. In the late '90's, Jones's mother was diagnosed with throat cancer, and in 1997, Higgins objected to a medical procedure for his mother-in-law, but was banned from the hospital room after a psychological evaluation on Jones's mother found she was "inappropriately manipulated by family--especially son-in-law."  Jones and Higgins wrote up a document about the incident called "Kidnapped/Held Incommunicado," which was sent to the national press, and on March 3, 1997, was forwarded to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. On March 20, Jones's mother died, igniting Higgins to start a campaign against the medical center, Central Baptist Hospital in Kentucky. During this time, Jones's novel, The Healing, was in the process of being released. Higgins began to bombard the Lexington police, calling them and writing them multiple times a day. A letter that arrived to the police station on February 20, 1998 indicated a bomb threat, and police figured out that Higgins, who at the time was using the alias Bob Jones, was previously wanted for arrest. After a standoff with police at their residence, Higgins committed suicide and Jones was put on suicide watch. Since then, Jones only talks to family and Harper and has refused requests for several interviews.