Chris Gabbard was born and grew up in Palo Alto, California, where he attended St. Albert the Great Elementary School (now St. Elizabeth Seton) and St. Francis High School in Mountain View. Afterward, he attended San Francisco State University. In the 1970s he worked for a year as a boycott organizer for César Chávez’s United Farm Workers Union. In the 1980’s he lived in San Francisco, where for six years he served as the chief editor of The Short Story Review, the first venue to publish work by Chinese-American writer Amy Tan (the short story “Endgame” in vol. 3, no. 4; Spring 1986). “Endgame” became the basis of the novel The Joy Luck Club (1989) and the film of the same name (1993).
He married Ilene Chazan on August 1, 1992, in a beautiful outdoor ceremony in Los Altos. The couple honeymooned in the Napa wine country. Their first child, August, was born on March 5, 1999, at the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, where he incurred significant and multiple life-long impairments due to a mismanaged delivery. August is the subject of Chris’s book, A Life Beyond Reason: A Disabled Boy and His Father’s Enlightenment (Beacon Press, 2020).
Chris earned a Ph.D. in English literature at Stanford University in 1999 after obtaining a M.A. from San Francisco State University. He now teaches courses in British Enlightenment (eighteenth-century) literature, Disability Studies in the Humanities, and Care Studies at the University of North Florida, where he is Professor of English. He and his wife live in the San Marco neighborhood of Jacksonville. He enjoys running, reading, hiking, gardening, following the San Francisco Giants, and walking his bow-legged Yorkie named Oscar the Grouch.
It was while wrapping up his dissertation that his catastrophically impaired son August was born. The event sparked his interest in Disability Studies and, much later, Care Studies. His memoir A Life Beyond Reason grew out of an essay published in 2010 in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Chris sits on the Board of Directors of the The DLC Nurse and Learn. Located in Jacksonville, Florida, the DLC provides childcare for children ages birth to 23 years old of all abilities, including those with severe cognitive and physical impairments and/or medical needs. It is the only after-school and summer facility for such children in the city. A non-profit organization, it survives on public donations. August attended the DLC from 2001 until his death in 2013.