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Margaret Atwood

Atwood at the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair
Atwood at the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair
Born Margaret Eleanor Atwood
(1939-11-18) November 18, 1939 (age 82)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Residence Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Alma mater
Period 1961–present
Notable works
  • Surfacing (1972)
  • The Handmaid's Tale (1985)
  • Cat's Eye (1988)
  • Alias Grace (1996)
  • The Blind Assassin (2000)
  • Oryx and Crake (2003)
Jim Polk
(m. 1968; div. 1973)
Partner Graeme Gibson (1973–2019; his death)
Children 1


Margaret Eleanor Atwood CH CC OOnt FRSC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian writer. She is best known for writing novels. She has also published 15 books of poetry. The Edible Woman was her first novel, published in 1969.

Her novel The Handmaid's Tale was the first winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, in 1987. The sequel, The Testaments, is due for release in September 2019.

The Blind Assassin won the 2000 Booker Prize.

Early life and education

Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the second of three children of Carl Edmund Atwood, an entomologist, and Margaret Dorothy (née Killam), a former dietician and nutritionist from Woodville, Nova Scotia. Because of her father's research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of northern Quebec, and travelling back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto.

She did not attend school full-time until she was 12 years old. She became a voracious reader of literature, Dell pocketbook mysteries, Grimms' Fairy Tales, Canadian animal stories, and comic books. She attended Leaside High School in Leaside, Toronto, and graduated in 1957. Atwood began writing plays and poems at the age of 6.

As a child, she also participated in the Brownie program of Girl Guides of Canada. Atwood has written about her experiences in Girl Guides in several of her publications.

Atwood 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, and participated in the sophomore theatrical tradition of The Bob Comedy Revue. Her professors included Jay Macpherson and Northrop Frye. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English (honours) and minors in philosophy and French.

In 1961, Atwood began graduate studies at Radcliffe College of Harvard University, with a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. She obtained a master's degree (MA) from Radcliffe in 1962.

Personal life

Atwood married Jim Polk, an American writer, in 1968, but later divorced in 1973. She formed a relationship with fellow novelist Graeme Gibson soon afterward and moved to a farm near Alliston, Ontario, where their daughter, Eleanor Jess Atwood Gibson, was born in 1976.

The family returned to Toronto in 1980. Atwood and Gibson were together until September 18, 2019, when Gibson died after suffering from dementia. She wrote about Gibson in the poem Dearly and in an accompanying essay on grief and poetry published in The Guardian in 2020.

Although she is an accomplished writer, Atwood claims to be a terrible speller.

She also has a sister, Ruth Atwood, born in 1951, and a brother who is two years older, Harold Leslie Atwood.

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