A fourth generation Californian (until he moved away), Chris Gabbard grew up in Palo Alto. From 1983 to 1989 he was the publisher and chief editor of The Short Story Review, 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.
Chris now teaches British Enlightenment literature and Disability Studies in the Humanities at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. It was while wrapping up his dissertation at Stanford University in 1999 that his catastrophically impaired son August was born. The event sparked his interest in Disability Studies. 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.