A Canadian poet and novelist known for her bleak, dystopian work, The Handmaid's Tale, she was shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times. Her other well-known works include Cat's Eye, Oryx and Crake, and Surfacing.
She first published her poetry while studying at the University of Toronto's Victoria College. She later taught at the University of British Columbia, Sir George Williams University in Montreal, and the University of Alberta.
She was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.
She was married to Jim Polk from 1968-1973. She and her partner, Graeme Gibson, welcomed their daughter, Eleanor, in 1976.
She won the Arthur C. Clarke award for her novel The Handmaid's Tale.