She was born Deborah Elizabeth Copaken to a Jewish family in Boston, the daughter of Marjorie Ann (née Schwartz) and Richard Daniel Copaken, who served as a White House Fellow for President Lyndon B. Johnson. She grew up first in Adelphi, then Potomac, Maryland. Kogan attended Harvard University, and worked as a photographer based in Paris, France, traveling to Zimbabwe, Zurich, Afghanistan, Israel, Romania, the Soviet Union and other places. In 1993, she married Paul Mikhailovich Kogan, and worked for ABC, where she won an Emmy for a story on the 1994 Amtrak Train crash, and at NBC during the next several years.
Kogan has written a bestselling memoir entitled Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War. It was first published in 2001. At one point, writer Darren Star had been adapting the book into a Hollywood film. Now it's being adapted by producer Anthony Bregman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and director José Padhila (Elite Squad).
She is also a novelist, essayist and performer. Her novel Between Here and April was published in 2008 and won the November Elle Reader's Prize, and her book of comic essays, Hell is Other Parents, some of which appeared in the New Yorker and the New York Times, will be published in August 2009. She has performed live storytelling with The Moth and stand-up comedy with Afterbirth.
As a teenager, she had a small speaking role in the film Key Exchange.
Kogan's son, Jacob Kogan, is an actor who played the title role in the 2007 film Joshua and Young Spock in JJ Abrams' 2009 Star Trek.