#RespectYourElders: Margaret Atwood, age 79, is a Canadian author, poet and inventor. Known for her work in dystopian and historical fiction, she has written more than 40 books and essays including “Cat’s Eye,” “The Blind Assassin,” and the widely popular novel-turned-TV-show, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The themes in Atwood’s stories often include social realism, gender and identity, religion and climate change.
Atwood was born in Ottawa, Canada, where she spent her early years living in the wilderness due to her father’s occupation as an entomologist. Her family lived in isolated areas while her father worked at insect research stations. At the age of 16, she found inspiration in reading poetry by Edgar Allen Poe and declared she wanted to be a writer.
Atwood enrolled at Victoria College at the University of Toronto and received a Bachelor of Arts in English. She went on to receive her master’s in English literature at Radcliffe College, which was an all-female institution before merging with Harvard University in 1999.
While she’s most known for her “speculative fiction” novels — Atwood’s self-described genre encompassing science fiction and realism — she began her writing career as a poet. In 1966, her first professionally published collection of poetry, “The Circle Game,” received the Governor’s General Award, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Canada.
Atwood is most recognized for the controversial novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” published in 1985. The book, and most recently a Hulu TV series, depicts a dystopia where women are enslaved in a patriarchal society. Set in the future, fertility rates have plummeted, and the last remaining fertile women are forced to conceive children.
“The 1980s was a decade of pushback against the uprising of the many kinds of feminism in the 1970s,” Atwood said in an interview with Penguin Books. “People were saying that they would like women to be back in the home in their rightful sphere, and that all of the gains that people thought they had made ought to be reversed.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale” won a number of awards after it was published, and was made into a film, an opera and most recently, a television show set to release a third season in June 2019. Atwood announced a sequel to the novel titled “The Testaments,” which is set to be published in September 2019 — 29 years after the original book was released.
Atwood is known for more than her writing, too. She helped create the LongPen, a robotic device that allows anyone to sign a paper remotely in a way that duplicates the speed and pressure of the original autograph, making it an authentic replica.
Atwood’s career has inspired millions of people around the world. In 2017 she received a lifetime achievement award from one of the world’s oldest literary organizations, Pen Center USA. Upon receiving her award she asked the audience, “What is the world we live in? What is the world we want to live in?”
What is the world you want to live in?