Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on 26 April 1966, Confederate Memorial Day, to Eric Trethewey and Gwendolyn Ann Turnbough, who were married illegally at the time of her birth, a year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws with Loving v. Virginia. Her birth certificate noted the race of her mother as "colored", and the race of her father as “Canadian”.
Trethewey's mother was part of the inspiration for Native Guard, which is dedicated to her memory. Trethewey's parents divorced when she was young and Turnbough was murdered in 1985 by her second husband, whom she had recently divorced, when Trethewey was 19 years old.[
Recalling her reaction to her mother's death, she said, "that was the moment when I both felt that I would become a poet and then immediately afterward felt that I would not. I turned to poetry to make sense of what had happened".
Natasha Trethewey's father is also a poet; he is a professor of English at Hollins University.
United States Poet Laureate
On 7 June 2012 James Billington, the Congress, named her the 19th Poet Laureate. Billington said, after hearing her poetry at the Book Festival, that he was "“immediately struck by a kind of classic quality with a richness and variety of structures with which she presents her poetry …
she intermixes her story with the historical story in a way that takes you deep into the human tragedy of it."Newspapers noted that unlike most poet laureates, Trethewey is in the middle of her career.She will also be the first laureate to take up residence in Washington, D.C. when she does so in January 2013.