An American fiction writer and teacher, she is best known for her relationship-themed novel, The Women of Brewster Place (1982). Her other works include Mama Day (1988) and Bailey's Cafe (1992).
She studied English at Brooklyn College.
Her novel, The Women of Brewster Place, won the National Book Award.
She was the New York-born daughter of Roosevelt McCain and Alberta McAlpin.
The Women of Brewster Place was made into a film by Oprah Winfrey's production company.