Norma Gangel was born in Brooklyn and absorbed Jewish culture and cadences from her childhood neighborhood and from the Yiddish-speaking household of her grandparents. She studied literature and dance at Mount Holyoke College, graduating cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1946. She continued to study dance with José Limón and Martha Graham and taught English and dance at a private school. She received an M.A. in English from Columbia University in 1953 with a thesis on the novels of Graham Greene. She began working in book publishing for Harper & Row, quitting in 1959 to write full-time after her first two published stories appeared in Commentary and Mademoiselle. After a brief first marriage, in 1960 she married Robert S. Rosen, a professor of modern languages at Baruch College, and the couple had two children. Norma Rosen has taught creative writing at several universities, and from 1971 to 1973, she was a fellow at Radcliffe College’s prestigious Bunting Institute.