Chris Gabbard grew up in Palo Alto, California, and has one sibling, a brother named Jesse who lives outside of Portland, Oregon. His parents, Arvil William Gabbard and Frances Silvey, are deceased. Raised as a Roman Catholic, Chris attended St. Francis High School in Mountain View, the heart of Silicon Valley.
Chris worked for a year as a full-time boycott organizer for César Chávez’s United Farm Workers Union, earning $5 a week plus room and board, then studied creative writing at San Francisco State University. For a long period he worked in and then ran his family’s retail irrigation-supply business in Mountain View. From 1983 to 1989 he was the publisher and chief editor of The Short Story Review headquartered in San Francisco, the first journal to publish work by Chinese-American writer Amy Tan. He married Ilene Chazan in 1992, and in 1999 he earned a Ph.D. in English literature at Stanford.
He now teaches composition, British Enlightenment literature, and Disability Studies in the Humanities at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. See “Academic profile” for more information. In 2012 he won the Disability Resource Center Professor Empowerment Award, and in 2017 he garnered the Sigma Tau Delta Faculty Appreciation Award, in recognition of his “Outstanding Commitment and Dedication to the Art of Teaching.”
It was while wrapping up his doctoral dissertation at Stanford in 1999 that his severely impaired son August was born. The event sparked his interest in Disability Studies in the Humanities. His memoir A Life Beyond Reason grew out of an essay published in 2010 in The Chronicle of Higher Education. August died in 2013; video and pictures of him can be viewed at A Boy Named August. Chris and Ilene have one surviving child, Clio.