Douglas was born in Natchez, Mississippi and grew up in Hope, Arkansas, and Alexandria, Louisiana. She graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1942. She later taught writing there. She adopted the pen name Ellen Douglas before the publication of A Family’s Affairs to protect the privacy of two aunts, on whose lives she had based much of the plot.
Douglas died of heart failure at the age of 91 on November 7, 2012.
Margalit Fox writes that Douglas's work "explored the epochal divide between the Old South and the New, examining vast, difficult subjects — race relations, tensions between the sexes, the conflict between the needs of the individual and those of the community — through the small, clear prism of domestic life."
Novels and stories
- A Family's Affairs (1961)
- Black Cloud, White Cloud: Two Novellas and Two Stories (1963)
- "On the Lake," in Prize Stories 1963 (1963)
- Where The Dreams Cross (1968)
- Apostles of Light (Houghton Mifflin 1973)
- The Rock Cried Out (1979)
- A Lifetime Burning (Random House 1982)
- A Long Night (1986)
- The Magic Carpet and Other Tales (1987)
- Can't Quit You, Baby (Scribner 1988)
- Truth: Four Stories I Am Finally Old Enough to Tell (Algonquin Books 1998) ISBN 978-1-565-12214-7
- Witnessing (University Press of Mississippi 2004) ISBN 978-1-578-06670-4
- Paterson, Judith (July 10, 1988). Southern Discomforts. Washington Post
- Associated Press (June 9, 2008). Author Ellen Douglas to be honored. USA Today
- "Ellen Douglas, Novelist of Southern Life, Dies at 91". New York Times. November 12, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
- "Miss. author Ellen Douglas dies at 91; was National Book Award nominee for Apostles of Light". The Washington Post. November 8, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
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