Ciment was born in Montreal, Canada in 1955. Without finishing high school, she went to New York to become an artist, and ended up working at a "modeling" agency posing nude for lowlife shutterbugs. She went to study art at the California Institute of Arts, under John Baldessari. She earned her BFA from CalArts in 1975. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Irvine in 1981.. She's the author of The Tattoo Artist. She's a professor of English at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. Her new novel Heroic Measure was released in the spring of 2009, Pantheon Books-Knopf-Doubleday Publisher. This book was one of titles chosen by Oprah Winfrey's Book Club for 2009 summer time reading. This book was also one of the top five finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for 2010.