A Mexican-American novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter, she is known for quirky, often female-centered stories that explore multi-cultural themes and make experimental, imaginative use of language. Her best-known works include Esperanza's Box of Saints (1998) and Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Co. (2005).
She grew up in Mexico City with three siblings and later immigrated to the United States. She published her debut short story in a Mexican journal in the early 1970s.
Her first novel, Esperanza's Box of Saints (1999), was published in both English and Spanish and reached the number one spot on the Los Angeles Times Best Seller list.
She had two children with Benito Martinez-Creel. She and Martinez-Creel later divorced.
She was inspired and influenced by the work of Octavio Paz.