Jean D'Costa (nee Creary) was born on January 13, 1937, the last of three children. Her parents were both elementary school teachers who lived and worked in various parts of rural Jamaica. Along with her elder sister, Pansy (now Mrs Hay), and their brother Aubrey, Jean attended the schools where her parents taught. In 1948 she won a government scholarship to St Hilda's High School in Brown's Town. Here she spent six years, three of them in VIth Form (1949-54). After two more terms at St Hugh's High school in Kingston in 1955, she entered the University College of the West Indies and read for an honours degree in English (1955-58). An overseas scholarship took her in 1959 to read for an M.Litt. in Jacobean drama at Oxford University (1962).