Camilla Gibb | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Camilla Gibb

Camilla Gibb, novelist (born in London, England 20 Feb 1968).

Camilla Gibb, novelist (born in London, England 20 Feb 1968). Raised in Toronto, Camilla Gibb began her career as an academic, receiving a BA in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Toronto before earning a Doctor of Philosophy in social anthropology from Oxford University. Following her degrees Gibb spent 2 years as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Toronto until she left academia in 2000 to pursue writing full-time. Gibb has garnered acclaim as a strong literary voice in Canada, as she tells personal and intimate stories of characters from around the globe.

Gibb first gained recognition as a writer with her debut novel Mouthing the Words (1999), the coming-of-age story of Thelma, who attempts to live in an imaginary world to cope with her dysfunctional family. The novel earned Gibb her first literary award, the City of Toronto Book Award, in 2000. The following year Gibb also won a CBC Literary Award for Short Fiction, for the story "Between Wars." In 2002 Gibb published her second novel, The Petty Details of So-and-So's Life, which follows the troubled childhood and subsequently maladjusted adulthood of a brother and sister. Gibb's best-known work is her third novel, Sweetness in the Belly (2005), which chronicles the story of Lilly, a white Muslim nurse forced to leave the ancient walled city of Harar during the Ethiopian Revolution for exile in London, England during the time of Prime Minister Thatcher. Since Lilly is a foreigner both in Harar and in London, the reader learns about these cities through Lilly's experiences as a teacher of the Qur'an in Harar and as a nurse in London. Sweetness in the Belly was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2005 and longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2007, and won the Trillium Book Award in 2006. Gibb's fourth novel, The Beauty of Humanity Movement (2010), details the tangled lives of 3 haunted characters in contemporary Vietnam.

Gibb's first 3 novels all contain autobiographical elements; even Sweetness in the Belly draws from her doctoral thesis on the Oromo, an Ethiopian ethnic group with whom she lived for the better part of a year. In writing The Beauty of Humanity Movement Gibb had to, for the first time, entirely invent the story. Gibb also abandoned her previous practice of immersing herself in academic studies of the area when she wrote about Vietnam. In contrast to her extensive research on Ethiopia, in preparation for writing Sweetness in the Belly, Gibb tried to focus on the human aspects of Vietnam and wrote based on her observations when visiting the country.

Gibb has been writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto and the University of Alberta. Currently she is an adjunct faculty member of the graduate creative writing programs at the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. Her books have been published in 18 countries and translated into 14 languages.

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