THYLIAS MOSS was born Thylias Rebecca Brasier on February 27, 1954, in Cleveland, Ohio, the only child of Calvin Theodore and Florida Missouri Gaiter Brasier. Both of Thylias's parents came from the South: her father originated from Cowan, Tennessee, and worked for the Cardinal Tire Company, while her mother was the daughter of a farmer from Valhermosa Springs, Alabama. Thylias grew up in a loving and stable environment, with her parents encouraging her youthful attempts at literature: she wrote a short story at the age of six and a poem at seven.
After graduating from Alexander Hamilton Junior High School and John Adams High School, Thylias entered Syracuse University. She remained there for two years (1971-73) but found the racial tensions at the college difficult to endure and withdrew. Shortly afterward, in July 1973, she married John Lewis Moss, a man she had met at the New Bethlehem Baptist Church in Cleveland when she was sixteen.
Moss eventually returned to college, this time attending Oberlin and receiving a B.A. in creative writing in 1981. Two years later she earned an M.A. from the University of New Hampshire. In that same year, 1983, she published her first book of poetry, Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman. Moss had won the Academy of American Poets College Prize in 1982 for the poem "Coming of Age in Sanduski" and was encouraged by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center to compile a volume of her poetry. Hosiery Seams attracted relatively little attention but was representative of many of the themes found in Moss's work: deep concern about the role of both minorities and women in society, a religious sensibility that is nonetheless highly critical of the social and intellectual repressiveness of conventional religion, and a probing of her own mental and emotional states as she encounters the varied phenomena of life.
Moss has received many awards and grants to continue her work, including grants from the Kenan Charitable Trust and the National Endowment for the Arts and a fellowship from the Artists' Foundation of Massachusetts.