Margaret Gibson (writer)

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Margaret Gibson
Born(1948-06-04)June 4, 1948
Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
DiedFebruary 25, 2006(2006-02-25) (aged 57)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
OccupationShort story writer, novelist
Notable worksThe Butterfly Ward, Opium Dreams

Margaret Gibson (June 4, 1948 – February 25, 2006) was a Canadian novelist and short story writer who lived in Toronto, Ontario.

Early life[edit]

Born and raised in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, the middle child of Audrey and Dane Gibson, Margaret Gibson began writing in the early 1970s to document her struggle with mental illness.[1] Initially diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, she learned only during her divorce from her first husband that she had been misdiagnosed and was in fact bipolar.[2]

Gibson was married in the early 1970s to Stuart Gilboord, with whom she had one son, Aaron. Following her divorce from Gilboord, Gibson moved in with her longtime friend, actor Craig Russell.

Gibson and Gilboord's custody battle for Aaron was portrayed in the 1994 television film For the Love of Aaron, in which Gibson was portrayed by actress Meredith Baxter.[2]

Writing career[edit]

Gibson published her debut short story collection, The Butterfly Ward, in 1976.[3] The book included the story "Making It", based on her experiences living with Russell, which was later made into the feature film Outrageous! by director Richard Benner.[4] Hollis McLaren played "Liza Conners", the fictionalized version of Gibson, in that film. Benner also produced a sequel, Too Outrageous!, ten years later.

"Ada", another story in the collection, was the basis of a CBC Television movie directed by Claude Jutra for the drama anthology series For the Record.[5] It was Jutra's first English-language film production.

The Butterfly Ward was a winner of the City of Toronto Book Award in 1977, shared with Margaret Atwood's novel Lady Oracle.[6]

Gibson followed up with the short story collections Considering Her Condition (1978),[7] Sweet Poison (1993)[8] and The Fear Room and Other Stories (1996)[9] before releasing her first and only novel, Opium Dreams, in 1997.[9]

Opium Dreams was a winner of the Books in Canada First Novel Award,[10] and Gibson subsequently published her final short story collection, Desert Thirst, in 1998.[11]

Later years[edit]

In later years Gibson lived with Juris Rasa, her second husband.[1]

She died in 2006 of breast cancer, aged 57.[12]

Works about Margaret Gibson[edit]

Her friend Stephen Jon Postal and his wife Guia Dino Postal chronicled Gibson's teenage life in the novel, Of Margaret and Madness: A Novel Inspired By True Events (ISBN 9781434332752).

In 2011, Vassar College's Powerhouse Theater produced David Solomon's play, Margaret and Craig, in workshop. The play was based on the writing of Craig Russell and Margaret Gibson.


  • The Butterfly Ward – 1976
  • Considering Her Condition – 1978
  • Sweet Poison – 1993
  • The Fear Room and Other Stories – 1996
  • Opium Dreams – 1997
  • Desert Thirst – 1998


  1. ^ a b "Demons drove gifted writer's career; Toronto author Margaret Gibson, 57 Burst on scene with The Butterfly Ward". Toronto Star, April 10, 2006.
  2. ^ a b "Author's `tortured life' turned into two-hour TV special". Ottawa Citizen, February 24, 1994.
  3. ^ "The Butterfly Ward by Margaret Gibson". Kirkus Reviews, March 3, 1980.
  4. ^ "Richard Benner picks his own labels". The Globe and Mail, June 18, 1979.
  5. ^ "Jutra brings warmth, humanity to mental hospital drama". The Globe and Mail, February 5, 1977.
  6. ^ "Archeologist, nurse, hockey player among winners of merit awards". The Globe and Mail, March 5, 1977.
  7. ^ "Gibson's territory is out beyond the jagged edges of life a step away from the abyss where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable". The Globe and Mail, September 30, 1978.
  8. ^ "Haunting stories reflect writer's own mental illness". Ottawa Citizen, November 6, 1993.
  9. ^ a b Jane Urquhart, "Brilliant fictions for the stout-hearted: Margaret Gibson's joyous and celebratory love of children and animals shines through the darker, more excruciating regions of her luminous first novel". The Globe and Mail, April 26, 1997.
  10. ^ "Opium Dreams wins award". Ottawa Citizen, April 25, 1998.
  11. ^ "A pitiless, ruthless story collection". Edmonton Journal, July 5, 1998.
  12. ^ "MARGARET GIBSON, WRITER: 1948–2006". The Globe and Mail, March 15, 2006.

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