A twentieth-century American author, she is best known for her Beulah Quintet of novels. The series includes Prisons; O Beulah Land; Know Nothing; The Scapegoat; and The Killing Ground.
She taught at Bard College, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the University of Virginia.
She was a founder of the annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
She married William L. Tazewell in 1978.
She taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where Gail Godwin once studied.