She received a B.A. in English from Vassar College in 1977. She is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship for Fiction, an NEA fellowship, and several other grants. Her first published novel was Ghost Dance, which appeared in 1986. Her best known novel is probably Defiance, published in 1998. She is a professor of literary arts at Brown University, where she has taught since 1995, and has previously held positions as a writer-in-residence at Illinois State University in 1991–92 and George Washington University in 1992–93, as well as teaching writing at Columbia University in 1993. A forthcoming novel, The Bay of Angels, incorporates various narrative types—essay, memoir, prose poems, and even graphics—and represents nearly 15 years of work. Parts of The Bay of Angels have appeared in journals and anthologies.
Maso was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1955, the child of her jazz musician father and her emergency department nurse mother.
During her senior year at Vassar, she submitted about 50 pages of prose poems as her senior honors thesis. It is at this point that she knew she wanted to be a writer.
Maso eschewed the traditional path to teaching, having never studied formally beyond her Vassar B.A., despite having been offered a graduate fellowship at Boston University. Rather, she devoted 9 years to learning the craft by doing, writing while alternately working as a waitress, artist's model, and fencing instructor. She also did some house- and cat-sitting, which afforded her time to write. Maso has referred to this period as her "apprenticeship years."
She lives in Germantown, NY, with her partner, Helen Lang, who she met while both were students at Vassar. They have a daughter together, Rose Lang-Maso, who attends Brown University.
- Ghost Dance. New York: Perennial Library, 1986, ISBN 0-88001-409-1
- The Art Lover. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990, ISBN 0-8112-1629-2
- Ava. Normal, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 1993, ISBN 1-56478-074-0
- The American Woman in the Chinese Hat. Normal, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 1994, ISBN 1-56478-045-7
- Defiance. New York: Dutton, 1998, ISBN 0-452-27829-5
- Mother&Child Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-58243-818-4
- Contributor, Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction by New American Writers, edited by E. J. Levy. New York: Avon Books, 1995.
- Aureole: An Erotic Sequence, Hopewell, New Jersey: Ecco, 1996, (short fiction collection)ISBN 0872864103
- Break Every Rule: Essays on Language, Longing, and Moments of Desire. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2000, ISBN 1-58243-063-2
- The Room Lit by Roses: A Journal of Pregnancy and Birth. Washington, D.C.: 2002, ISBN 1-58243-212-0
- Beauty is Convulsive: The Passion of Frida Kahlo, 2002,ISBN 1-58243-089-6
- Contributor, Tolstoy's Dictaphone: Technology and the Muse, edited by Sven Birkerts. St. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 1996.