An American novelist and short story writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance, she published such works as The Living Is Easy (1948) and The Richer, The Poorer: Stories, Sketches, and Reminiscences (1995). Her 1995 work, The Wedding, was made into a television miniseries by Oprah Winfrey.
She began writing at the age of seven; by her mid-teens, she had won several literary contests.
She died at the age of ninety-one.
Her father, Isaac Christopher West, was a slave for part of his life.
She tied with Zora Neale Hurston in a 1926 short story contest.