Carmen Boullosa was born in 1954 in Mexico City in a large bourgeois family. She studied at the Universidad Iberoamericana and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and was an editor for the »Diccionario del Español de México« (tr: Dictionary of Mexican Spanish) at the Colegio de México from 1977 to 1979.
After her first poetry collection (1976) and first play (»Vacío«, 1980), which was followed by further theater work, Boullosa has published 17 novels to date. She already made a name for herself with »Mejor desaparece« (1987; tr: Better It Vanishes) as a young literary voice from Latin America. »Son vacas, somos puercos« (1991; Eng. »They’re Cows, We’re Pigs«, 1997) is narrated from the perspective of an old man who looks back upon his life: In 1666, at 13 years old, Jean Smeeks boards a ship of the French West India Company and soon joins a group of pirates. The novel creates an appalling picture of the world of exploiters and pirates, of people who have turned their backs on the poverty of Europe and are now trying their luck in the rich colonies of the Americas. In »La milagrosa« (1992; tr: Miracle Worker) the plot is centered on a young woman who is able to heal sickness and perform other wonders in her sleep. »Duerme« (1994) is about the daughter of a French army whore who flees to Mexico disguised as a man. Against the background of the Spanish colonization process in Mexico, history melts with magic in a dreamlike story beyond frontiers. Even if Boullosa does not write gender literature per se, many of her works question gender identity and the power relationships that result from it. In 2015, Boullosa, together with Mike Wallace, wrote a plea for a new global drug policy in »A Narco History«, in which she asks the question of when and how the drug war began, who sparked it, who profits from it, and what consequences it has for society. In her most recent bilingual essay collection »Cuando México se (re) apropia de Texas« (2015; Eng. »When Mexico Recaptures Texas: Essays«) Boullosa discusses the topics that bind and separate Americans and Mexicans from the 19th century until today.
In 1983, Boullosa co-founded the cultural initiative El Cuervo, a center for theater premieres, poetry readings, and dance and music events. In 1991, she received a Guggenheim fellowship and lived in Berlin from 1995 to 1996 as a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program. She was awarded the LiBeraturpreis (1996), the Anna Seghers Prize (1997), the Premio Novela Café Gijón (2008), and the Premio Rosalía de Castro (2018). She splits her time between Coyoacán at Mexico City, and Brooklyn at New York.