Born in Kraków, Poland, shortly after World War II. Her parents, Boris and Maria Wydra, survived the Holocaust by hiding in a forest bunker and then by being hidden in a peasant's barn. In 1959, at the age of 13, she emigrated with her parents and sister to Vancouver, British Columbia. Upon graduating from high school she received a scholarship and studied English literature at Rice University in Houston, Yale School of Music, and Harvard University. At the latter university, she received a Ph.D. in English and American literature in 1975.
Hoffman has been a professor of literature and creative writing at various institutions, such as Columbia University, the University of Minnesota, Tufts, and CUNY's Hunter College. From 1979 to 1990, she worked as an editor and writer at The New York Times, serving as senior editor of "The Book Review" from 1987 to 1990. In 1990, she received the Jean Stein Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1992, the Guggenheim Fellowship for General Nonfiction, as well as the Whiting Award. In 2000, Eva Hoffman was the Year 2000 Una Lecturer at the Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2008, she was awarded an honorary DLitt by the University of Warwick. She has presented radio programmes and is the recipient of the Prix Italia for radio.
She married Barry Hoffman, a fellow Harvard student, in 1971. The couple divorced in 1976 without having children.
- Lost in Translation: Life in a New Language (1989)
- Exit into History: A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe (1993)
- Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews (1997)
- The Secret: A Novel (2002)
- After Such Knowledge: Memory, History and the Legacy of the Holocaust (2004)
- Illuminations. A Novel (2008), US: Appassionata (2009)
- Time: Big Ideas, Small Books (2009)
- How to Be Bored (2016)
Fjellestad writes on Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language: [It] is, to the best of my knowledge, the first "postmodern" autobiography written in English by an emigre from a European Communist country." She also writes that in the memoir, "Hoffman re-visions and reconstructs her Polish self through her American identity, and re-examines her American subjectivity through the memory of her Polish selfhood."
- Brown, Andrew (April 28, 2001). "Hoffman's Tale". The Guardian. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- "Eva Hoffman, Writer & Academic | Townsend Center for the Humanities". Townsendcenter.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-23.
- "Eva Hoffman - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Gf.org. Archived from the original on 2012-07-28. Retrieved 2012-10-23.
- "A Sense of Ourselves". The Essay. Episode 3. 2008-02-13. BBC. Radio 3.
- Fjellestad, Danuta Zadworna. "The Insertion of the Self into the Space of Borderless Possibility: Eva Hoffman's Exiled Body". Varieties of Ethnic Criticism. 20 (2): 133–147.
- Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, Amerykanie z wyboru [Americans by Choice], Warsaw 1998, pg. 298-310; ISBN 83-900358-7-1