The youngest of three children born to a father who was a Baptist minister and a mother who was an elementary school teacher, Andrea Lee grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After receiving a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in English from Harvard University's Radcliffe College, she lived in Russia for a year (1978–79) with her former husband, recording her observations in a diary, which formed the basis for her first book Russian Journal (1981). Her first novel, Sarah Phillips, was published in 1984.
Returning to the United States, Lee was for several years a staff writer on The New Yorker, where she is now a contract writer. She has also been published in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Vogue, Time, The Oxford American, and the textbook Elements of Literature. Her short story "Anthropology" was selected to be featured in The New Granta Book of the American Short Story, edited by Richard Ford.
- Russian Journal, 1981 (nominated for a National Book Award)
- Sarah Phillips (novel), 1984
- Interesting Women: Stories, 2002
- Lost Hearts in Italy: A Novel, 2006
- "Anthropology" (short story), 2002