Born in Charlottesville, Deborah Baker grew up in Virginia, Puerto Rico and New England. In 1990 she moved to Calcutta where she wrote In Extremis, a biography of the American modernist poet, Laura Riding which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in biography. A Blue Hand: The Beats in India (2008) explored the imaginative relationship between India and America as seen through the Indian travels of Allen Ginsberg et al in the early 60s. In 2008-2009 she was a Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis C. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at The New York Public Library. There she researched and wrote The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism (2011), a narrative account of the life of an American convert to Islam, drawing on letters she found in the library's manuscript division. The Convert was a finalist for the National Book Award.