Helen Dewitt was born in 1957 in Takoma Park, Maryland. She grew up mainly in South America. She started a degree at Smith College in 1975 and dropped out twice, the first time to read Eliot and Proust, the second time to go to Oxford to study classics and philosophy. She received a B. A. at Lady Margaret Hall and a doctorate at Brasenose, then spent a year as junior research fellow at Somerville before deciding to give up academic life in 1989. She now lives in England.