Facts about Gayl Jones
Gayl Jones Biography
Gayl Jones is known for capturing the oral tradition of Black women in the form of modern literature, as in her novels Corregidora (1975) and Eva’s Man (1976).
Her 1998 novel, The Healing, was a finalist for the National Book Award. It was published just days prior to Jones’s husband killing himself rather than be arrested at their home in Lexington, Kentucky on an outstanding warrant.
A graduate of Connecticut College (1971) and the writing program at Brown University (1973), Jones wrote her first novel, Corregidora, while earning a doctorate, and it was published in 1975.
Her unique voice earned praise from notables such as John Updike, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin, and she was supported in her career by Toni Morrison, an editor at Random House at the time.
Jones went on to more critical success with Eva’s Man (1976) and took up a faculty position at the University of Michigan. She published a collection of stories (White Rat) and married Robert Higgins.
While Jones continued her writing career, her politically active husband got into some trouble at a gay rights march in 1983 and was arrested for assault. Rather than show up for his court date, Higgins fled the country and was found guilty. Jones resigned her faculty position and went with him.
After five years in France they returned to care for Jones’s mother in Lexington, and Higgins used the alias Bob Jones for years without detection, despite facing a possible four years in jail.
Jones published a novel in 1998, The Healing, and an article in Newsweek magazine ultimately led police to her fugitive husband at their home in Lexington.
Jones and Higgins barred the police and a SWAT team took over. Jones and Higgins threatened to end their own lives, and when the team advanced Higgins stabbed himself fatally in the throat.
Jones was under psychiatric care for 72 hours and released. She went back to writing and seclusion. The novel Mosquito was published the next year.
In 2020 Gayl Jones published a five-volume novel, Palmares.
Something in Common with Gayl Jones
4 Good Links
- Her bio from the African American Literature Book Club
- Long, fascinating article on her husband's death
- Contemporary account of the 1998 events, including a bio
- 2020 piece from The Atlantic describing her career