Christina Marsden Gillis lives in sight of two oceans: in Berkeley, California, the Golden Gate and the Pacific beyond; at Gotts Island, Maine, Blue Hill Bay and its scattering of other islands. But she has known the latter far longer. She and her husband John were the parents of a young family when they became summer residents on Gotts and acquired the house that had been the childhood home of writer Ruth Moore.
With a PhD. in English, Christina Gillis taught and published in the field of eighteenth-century literature (The Paradox of Privacy) before moving into humanities administration and ultimately to California to become Associate Director of the then new Townsend Center for the Humanities at UC Berkeley. But born and raised in Rhode Island, Gillis views New England–and Maine in particular–as holding a special place in her personal history and that of her family. Her older son was married on Gotts Island; her younger son, Benjamin, killed in a freak accident in East Africa, is buried there.
Following her son's death, loss and the consolation offered by familiarity with a small island became important themes in Christina Gillis' work. She published essays in House Beautiful, Raritan, and the Island Institute’s Island Journal; her interests along these lines culminated in a book, Writing on Stone, illustrated with the photography of Maine artist Peter Ralston, in 2008 ( University Press of New England, and Island Institute). Her most recent book, Where Edges Don't Hold (CreateSpace, Spring 2017), brings together previously published essays with new work in celebration of what she calls an island in motion: a place where time comes round, and stories and memories rise to the surface of consciousness, there to be recognized and known again.
In essays appearing in Hotel Amerika, Southwest Review, Women's Studies, and Bellevue Literary Review, as well as Raritan and Island Journal, Christina Gillis has continued to explore how landscape, history, memory, and the stories of others all open up the ways that we connect with, and know, place. "Frost," published in Bellevue Literary Review, was designated a "notable essay" in Best American Essays, 2010; "Waiting for the Dark," which appeared in The Southwest Review, was similarly listed in 2015.