Author Eileen Saint Lauren met the legendary Ray Charles some 23 years ago — never expecting that she would one day go blind herself. Now, the iconic singer’s presence is felt in Saint Lauren’s new book, Goodlife, Mississippi, an immersive story that plunges readers into the sights, sounds and social constructs of the 1950s and ’60s segregated Deep South.
Eileen Saint Lauren was born in Hattiesburg and raised in the once two red-light town, Petal, Mississippi. She is an award-winning photojournalist and news and feature writer who worked early in her career as a commentator for Nebraska Public Radio and at Smith College Museum of Art. After graduating from Jones College in Ellisville, Mississippi, with an Associate of Arts Degree majoring in Journalism, she continued her education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in English. She then continued on with her education in creative writing at The Washington Center, Duke University, Kansas Newman College's, The Milton Center, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She divides her writing time between Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Madison, Mississippi. She was blind for three years due to back-to-back retina detachments at an early age. Although she did not regain her full sight, she is functional though visually disadvantaged.