Dykewomon was born in New York City, to middle class Jewish parents. She and her family moved to Puerto Rico when she was eight.
She studied fine art at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, received a B.F.A. in creative writing from the California Institute of Arts, later and her M.F.A. from San Francisco State University.
Dykewomon lives in Oakland, California and teaches at her alma mater San Francisco State.
In 1974, Dykewomon published her first novel, Riverfinger Women, under her name of birth, Elana Nachman.
Her second book, They Will Know Me By My Teeth, released in 1976, was published under the name Elana Dykewoman, "at once an expression of her strong commitment to the lesbian community and a way to keep herself 'honest,' since anyone reading the book would know the author was a lesbian."
The book of poetry, Fragments From Lesbos printed in 1981 "for lesbians only," was published under the author's current last name, "Dykewomon," in order "to avoid etymological connection with men."
In the 1989 anthology of writing by Jewish Women, The Tribe of Dina, Dykewomon describes herself as "a Lesbian Separatist, descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, typesetter, ...poet"
From 1987–1995, Dykewomon edited Sinister Wisdom, an international lesbian feminist journal of literature, art and politics, as well as contributing regularly to several other lesbian periodicals, including Common Lives/Lesbian Lives. She has also been a regular contributor to Bridges a magazine of writing by Jewish Women.
Beyond The Pale, a historical novel published by Press Gang Publishers in 1997, won a 1998 Lambda Literary Award for best Lesbian novel of that year.
Riverfinger Women was selected by a panel of judges (including Dorothy Allison, Samuel R. Delany, Lillian Faderman, M.E. Kerr, Sarah Schulman, and Barbara Smith) as #87/100 in The Publishing Triangle's list of 100 best lesbian and gay novels.
Riverfinger Women by Elana Dykewomon
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Naiad Pr (May 1992)
Amazon: Riverfinger Women
Since Inez Riverfingers' arrival on the scene in 1974, women have hailed Riverfinger Women as an indispensable classic of lesbian life. Discover for yourself Inez, Abby, and Peggy, and their richly interwined lives. Meet Rainbo Woman and Lucy Bear. Recapture the exhileration and pain of being young and lesbian in the anti-war 1960's in this salty tour de force, this romp thorugh a unique time of personal and sexual discovery.
Beyond the Pale by Elana Dykewomon
Paperback: 406 pages
Publisher: Raincoast Books; 2nd edition (September 25, 2003)
Amazon: Beyond the Pale
Beyond the Pale — winner of the Lambda Literary Award — tells the stories of two Jewish women living through times of darkness and inhumanity in the early 20th century, capturing their undaunted love and courage in luminous and moving prose. The richly textured novel details Gutke Gurvich’s odyssey from her apprenticeship as a midwife in a Russian shtetl to her work in the suffrage movement in New York. Interwoven with her tale is that Chava Meyer, who was attended by Gurvich at her birth and grew up to survive the pogrom that took the lives of her parents. Throughout the book, historical background plays a large part: Jewish faith and traditions, the practice of midwifery, the horrific conditions in prerevolutionary Russia and New York sweatshops, and the determined work of labor unionists and suffragists.