Alice Boyd Adams was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on August 14, 1926, the daughter of Nicholson Adams, a professor, and Agatha (née Boyd) Adams, a writer. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Adams spent her first sixteen years. After receiving her B.A. degree from Radcliffe College in 1946, she married Mark Linenthal, Jr. Two years later, they moved to California, and in 1951, their only child, Peter, was born. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1958, following which Adams held a number of part-time clerical, secretarial, and bookkeeping jobs while rearing her son and writing short stories.
It was not until 1969 that she broke into the magazine market when The New Yorker bought her story “Gift of Grass.” Since then, her stories have continued to appear in The New Yorker as well as Redbook, McCall’s, and The Paris Review. In addition, Adams has taught at the University of California at Davis, the University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford University. She died on May 27, 1999, in San Francisco after being treated for heart problems.