Brigitte Reimann was born in East Germany, the eldest of four siblings. At age 14, she contracted polio, and a year later wrote her first play. In 1950, she won first prize in an amateur drama competition by the Berlin theater Volksbühne. After graduation from high school, she worked as teacher, bookseller, and reporter. In 1960, she started to work at the Schwarze Pumpe coal mine, where she and her second husband Siegfried Pitschmann headed a circle of writing workers. While there, she wrote the short novel Ankunft im Alltag, (Arrival in Everyday Life, 1961), a great success in its day and now regarded as a masterpiece of socialist realism. She was awarded the prestigious Heinrich-Mann-Preis in 1964 for her short story Die Geschwister (The Siblings).
She continued to experiment with forms of free association and narration in her works. Although a firm supporter of the Communist regime as a young woman, Reimann's political views changed over time. After Russian troops invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 to repress the so-called Prague Spring, she refused to sign the declaration by the East German Writers' Association approving of the invasion. She died of cancer at the age of 39. Her unfinished novel Franziska Linkerhand, now her best-known work, was published posthumously in 1974, followed by other unfinished novels plus her diaries and correspondence. She received numerous honors during celebrations of the 70th anniversary of her birth in 2003: among them, a public library was named after her and a film about her life aired on German television.