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Handmaid's Tale (Atwood) - Author Bio

Author Bio
Birth—November 18, 1939
Where—Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Education—B.A., University of Toronto; M.A. Radcliffe; Ph.D., Harvard University
Awards—Governor General's Award; Booker Prize; Griller Award
Currently—lives in Toronto, Canada

Margaret Eleanor Atwood, is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. She is among the most-honoured authors of fiction in recent history. She is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award several times, winning twice. She is also a founder of the Writers' Trust of Canada, a non-profit literary organization that seeks to encourage Canada's writing community.

Early life
Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Atwood is the second of three children of Margaret Dorothy (nee Killam), a former dietitian and nutritionist, and Carl Edmund Atwood, an entomologist. Due to her father’s ongoing research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of Northern Quebec and traveling back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Toronto. She did not attend school full-time until she was in grade 8. She became a voracious reader of literature, Dell pocketbook mysteries, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Canadian animal stories, and comic books. She attended Leaside High School in Leaside, Toronto, and graduated in 1957.

Atwood began writing at the age of six and realized she wanted to write professionally when she was 16. In 1957, she began studying at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, where she published poems and articles in Acta Victoriana, the college literary journal. Her professors included Jay Macpherson and Northrop Frye. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English (honours) and a minor in philosophy and French.

In late 1961, after winning the E.J. Pratt Medal for her privately printed book of poems, Double Persephone, she began graduate studies at Harvard's Radcliffe College with a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. She obtained a master's degree (MA) from Radcliffe in 1962 and pursued further graduate studies at Harvard University for two years but did not finish her dissertation, “The English Metaphysical Romance." She has taught at the University of British Columbia (1965), Sir George Williams University in Montreal (1967–68), the University of Alberta (1969–70), York University in Toronto (1971–72), the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (1985), where she was visiting M.F.A. Chair, and New York University, where she was Berg Professor of English.

Personal life
In 1968, Atwood married Jim Polk; they were divorced in 1973. She formed a relationship with fellow novelist Graeme Gibson soon after and moved to a farm near Alliston, Ontario, north of Toronto, where their daughter was born in 1976. The family returned to Toronto in 1980.

Other genres
While she is best known for her work as a novelist, she has also published fifteen books of poetry. Many of her poems have been inspired by myths and fairy tales, which have been interests of hers from an early age. Atwood has published short stories in Tamarack Review, Alphabet, Harper's, CBC Anthology, Ms., Saturday Night, and many other magazines. She has also published four collections of stories and three collections of unclassifiable short prose works.

Atwood has also produced several children's books, including Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) and Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003)—delicious alliterative delights that introduce a wealth of new vocabulary to young readers

Speculative fiction vs. sci-fic
The Handmaid's Tale received the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987. The award is given for the best science fiction novel that was first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year. It was also nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award, and the 1987 Prometheus Award, both science fiction awards.

Atwood was at one time offended at the suggestion that The Handmaid's Tale or Oryx and Crake were science fiction, insisting to the UK's Guardian that they were speculative fiction instead: "Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen." She told the Book of the Month Club: "Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction, not a science fiction proper. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians."

She clarified her meaning on the difference between speculative and science fiction, admitting that others use the terms interchangeably: "For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can't yet do.... [S]peculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand and that takes place on Planet Earth." She said that science fiction narratives give a writer the ability to explore themes in ways that realistic fiction cannot.

Environmentalism
Although Atwood's politics are commonly described as being left-wing, she has indicated in interviews that she considers herself a Red Tory in the historical sense of the term. Atwood, along with her partner Graeme Gibson, is a member of the Green Party of Canada (GPC) and has strong views on environmental issues. She and Gibson are the joint honorary presidents of the Rare Bird Club within BirdLife International. She has been chair of the Writers' Union of Canada and president of PEN Canada, and is currently a vice president of PEN International. In a Globe and Mail editorial, she urged Canadians to vote for any other party to stop a Conservative majority.

During the debate in 1987 over a free trade agreement between Canada and the United States, Atwood spoke out against the deal, and wrote an essay opposing the agreement.

Atwood celebrated her 70th birthday at a gala dinner at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, marking the final stop of her international tour to promote The Year of the Flood. She stated that she had chosen to attend the event because the city has been home to one of Canada's most ambitious environmental reclamation programs: "When people ask if there's hope (for the environment), I say, if Sudbury can do it, so can you. Having been a symbol of desolation, it's become a symbol of hope." (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/17/2013.)


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