BORN APRIL 21, 1907 IN OKLAHOMA TERRITORY to Walter Babb, a professional gambler, and Jeanette Parks Babb, a patient, gentle woman of genteel birth, Sanora, together with her sister Dorothy, born two years later in Waynoka, Oklahoma, spent their early childhood following their father's restless moves. The family settled finally on a broomcorn farm on the arid, wind-swept High Plains of southeastern Colorado, living in a dugout homesteaded by Sanora's grandfather. After repeated crop failures the Babbs moved first to Elkhart, Kansas, then to Forgan in the Oklahoma Panhandle, where Sanora graduated valedictorian of her high school class. A year at the University of Kansas exhausted her funds. She returned home, graduating from the Garden City Junior College in 1926, followed by a year teaching in a one-room school.
Sanora apprenticed as a journalist for the Garden City Herald, winning her Associated Press credentials. Shortly before the stock market crash in October 1929, she left for Los Angeles, where she eventually found work as a scriptwriter for radio station KFWB. Joining her soon after, Dorothy graduated with a degree in English from UCLA. A close friend of fellow struggling writers such as William Saroyan, John Fante, Carlos Bulosan, Meridel Le Sueur, and John Sanford, Sanora published her work in experimental and activist "little magazines," which served as springboards to mainstream publication. Adversity and a concern for social justice joined these young writers in an informal freemasonry of goodwill and progressive ideals that has seldom existed before or since in American literature. Political activism and shared artistic ideals brought Sanora in contact with writers as diverse as Dorothy Parker, Ralph Ellison, Genevieve Taggard, Nathanael West, John Howard Lawson, Theodore Dreiser, and B. Traven.