Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood Biography

(1939–)
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Margaret Atwood is an award-winning Canadian poet, novelist and essayist known for books like 'The Handmaid’s Tale,' 'Cat's Eye' and 'Oryx and Crake,' among an array of other works.

Who Is Margaret Atwood?

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian writer who has written award-winning poetry, short stories and novels, including The Circle Game (1966), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Blind Assassin (2000), Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Tent (2006). Her works have been translated into an array of different languages and seen several screen adaptations, with both Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace becoming miniseries in 2017.

Early Life and Education

Atwood was born on November 18, 1939, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada to a nutritionist mother and entomologist father who fostered a love of nature. Also growing up in Quebec and showing a passion for writing at an early age, Atwood eventually pursued her undergraduate studies at Victoria College at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1961. She then earned her master’s at Radcliffe the following year. Over the course of her career, Atwood went on to teach at a variety of colleges and universities in both Canada and the United States.

Poems Acclaimed Literary Career

Atwood’s first published work was the pamphlet of poetry Double Persephone (1961), published via Hawkshead Press. More poetry followed during the decade as seen with the books Talismans for Children (1965) and The Animals in That Country (1968). She then published her first novel, The Edible Woman, in 1969, a metaphoric, witty work about the social status of a woman about to wed.

A tenacious spirit, Atwood would later describe taking Greyhound buses to read at gymnasiums and sell books. Atwood continued to publish poetry as well as the novels Surfacing (1973), Lady Oracle (1976) and Life Before Man (1980). 

Books: 'The Handmaid's Tale'

Several more books followed, yet it was 1985’s The Handmaid’s Tale that garnered Atwood a massive wave of acclaim and popularity. A prescient warning over what could be, the book chronicles a puritanical, theocratic dystopia in which a select group of fertile women — a condition which has become a rarity — are made to bear children for corporate male overlords.

The Handmaid’s Tale, also performed as an opera, was turned into a 1990 film starring Natasha Richardson as the title character Offred, along with Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall.

Decades later, Handmaid’s Tale was adapted into a spring 2017 TV miniseries, starring Elisabeth Moss as Offred, along with Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel and Joseph Fiennes. It later won multiple Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series. In addition, Atwood’s novel Alias Grace, a murder tale set in the mid-19th century in upper Canada, released as a miniseries in the fall of 2017.

Speculative Fiction and Comics

Atwood is a prolific writer who has penned additional novels that include Cat’s Eye (1989) and The Blind Assassin, which won the Booker Prize. Continuing her output of speculative fiction with real-world parallels, the new millennium saw Atwood releasing the environment focused MaddAddam trilogy, consisting of Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009) and MaddAddam (2013). In addition to The Penelopiad (2005) and The Tent (2006), she also released the book of essays In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, looking at the nuances of sci-fi/fantasy genre writing.

In 2016, Atwood published the graphic novel Angel Catbird, an undertaking done with fellow Canadian artist Johnnie Christmas which profiles the super-heroic adventures of a genetic engineer who becomes part feline, part owl. The work is slated to be followed up by the February 2017 release, Angel Catbird: To Castle Catula.

Atwood lived in Toronto with her partner Graeme Gibson until his death in September 2019. The couple has one daughter.

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