DeWitt grew up primarily in Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador), as her parents worked in the United States diplomatic service. After a year at Northfield Mount Hermon School and two short periods at Smith College, DeWitt studied classics at the University of Oxford, first at Lady Margaret Hall, and then at Brasenose College for her D.Phil.
DeWitt is best known for her debut novel, The Last Samurai. She held a variety of jobs while struggling to finish a book, including a dictionary text tagger, a copytaker, and Dunkin' Donuts employee, she also worked in a laundry service. During this time she reportedly attempted to finish many novels, before finally completing The Last Samurai, her 50th manuscript, in 1998.
Her short story "Climbers", which explores artistic ideals and commercial realities of the writing life, was published in Harper's magazine November 2014.
- The Last Samurai (New York: Hyperion, 2000; ISBN 0-7868-6668-3)
- Lightning Rods (High Wycombe: And Other Stories, 2012; ISBN 978-1-908276-11-7)
- And Other Stories, Helen DeWitt Retrieved 23 January 2013
- Macgowan, James (2000-10-15). "After 50 attempts, Helen DeWitt's brainy prose gets brawny cash advances". The Ottawa Citizen (CanWest Interactive).
- Carter, Helen (10 October 2012). "Independents' day? Small presses make up 50% of Booker shortlist" The Guardian. Accessed 2 May 2013.
- http://www.andotherstories.org/book/lightning-rods/ Retrieved 23 January 2013
- Helen DeWitt on Writing, Flin Flon and the Canadian Personality
- harper's magazine vol.329 No. 1974
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