Sapphire was born Ramona Lofton in Fort Ord, California on August 4, 1950. She attended City College of New York and received her master's degree at Brooklyn College. Before starting her writing career, she worked as a performance artist and a teacher of reading and writing. Her works include the poetry collection American Dreams and the novel Push, which won the Book-of-the-Month Club Stephen Crane award for First Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association's First Novelist Award, and the Mind Book of the Year Award in Great Britain. Precious, the film adaption of her novel Push, won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance (2009). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Black Scholar, Spin, and Bomb. In 2009, she was the recipient of a Fellow Award in Literature from United States Artists.