Camilla Gibb sparks questions at Atkinson Canadian writers series

On Dec. 5, the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professsional Studies Canadian Writers in Person course and reading series presented Camilla Gibb, novelist and author of numerous scholarly publications, shorts stories and works of non-fiction. Series organizer John Unrau, English Department, Atkinson School of Arts & Letters, sent the following report of the evening.

Camilla Gibb read from her highly acclaimed first novel Mouthing the Words, which won the Toronto Book Award in 2000 and has been published in more than a dozen countries. The story is a harrowing one, about a young girl”s sexual abuse by her father, and her turbulent, disturbing and sometimes comic journey to a kind of wholeness.

Gibb read sections corresponding to the childhood, adolescence and young adulthood of the protagonist, and then responded to an hour of questioning from the large audience. Among the many questions raised were: what was the role of humour in evoking the narrator”s consciousness; and why was this story was written from a first rather than third person point of view.

Gibb, following in the tradition of writers such as W.B. Yeats, insisted that the novel should be treated as a work of art rather than as a treatise on or polemic against sexual abuse. She also assured us (anticipating the inevitable questions) that the novel was not at all autobiographical.

Gibb appeared several years ago in her role as social anthropologist (she holds a PhD from Oxford University) to give a paper at the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies” lunchtime Brownbag Lecture Series, directed by Atkinson Prof. Luigi Bianchi, a longtime friend of hers.