Jo Sinclair was born Ruth Seid to a family of Russian Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York. The family moved to Cleveland when she was three. She was an excellent student even while working during high school to help support the family. After graduation, she began attending night classes at Cleveland College and worked by day as a clerk-typist and then in a factory. Eventually she landed a job with the WPA, one of the prominent programs of the New Deal during the Great Depression. With her first published story, "Noon Lynching" (1936), she adopted the pseudonym Jo Sinclair. Her first novel, Wasteland (1946), based in part on her own family, won the Harper Prize for new writers. The cash award enabled her to become a full-time writer. During her career, she produced articles, short stories, novels, radio and television scripts, and an autobiography; she also worked as a ghostwriter. Many of her works explored issues of poverty, anti-Semitism, Jewish and sexual identity, discrimination, and sexism. Several of her books were reissued in the late 1980s and 1990s by the Jewish Publication Society and the Feminist Press.