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Frances Itani

Frances Itani

Photo: Maggie Knaus

Frances Itani, C.M., writer of novels, short stories, poetry, essays, reviews and children's books, has written 18 books and is a recipient of the new 2019 Library and Archives Canada Scholars Award. Her new novel, The Company We Keep, published by HarperCollins in August 2020 — and sold internationally — is about six strangers who meet in the backroom of Cassie's Cafe and find common purpose as they discuss loss and grief, truth and new beginnings. Itani's previous novel, That's My Baby, (2017) is set during WWII's Jazz Age and moves forward to 1998. Characters include Hanora (previously in Tell) who is adopted, and her cousin who has the beginnings of Dementia. Thematically, the novel is concerned with finding and losing identity. Tell, a bestseller, was shortlisted for the 2014 Giller Prize in Canada & published in the U.S. by Black Cat (Grove/Atlantic) 2015. Itani's children's book, Best Friend Trouble, was published (world rights) by Orca in 2014 (Picture book, K-3). She won a Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best Book, 2004, for Deafening, a #1 bestseller, which was short-listed for many honours and awards, including the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award & the William Saroyan International Award. Remembering the Bones, a bestselling novel published and translated internationally, was shortlisted for a Commonwealth Prize and is a frequent choice for bookclub discussions. Itani is a three-time winner of the CBC Literary Award, and won the Ottawa Book Award twice for story collections, Man Without Face and Poached Egg on Toast. The latter also won the CAA Jubilee Award for Best Book of Canadian Stories, 2005. Itani co-edited, with Susan Zettell,  Danuta Gleed's posthumous stories, One of the Chosen. Ms. Itani  has often reviewed for the Washington Post, and has written essays, articles and stories for Globe & Mail, Brick, Canadian Geographic, Ottawa Citizen, The Walrus, Toronto Life, Ottawa City Magazine, etc.

Born in Belleville, ON, Itani moved with her family to a Quebec village on the Ottawa River at age 4. She taught and practised Nursing for 8 years (R.N., Montreal General Hospital, 10 months at Duke University; 1 year at McGill studying post-graduate Nursing). She has a B.A. in Psychology  from Univ. of Alberta and an M.A. in English Literature from the Univ. of New Brunswick. She has lived in 7 Canadian provinces, in England, U.S.A., Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, and has travelled extensively throughout Europe and Japan. Teaching and writer-in-residence positions include Univ. of Ottawa, Trent Univ., Univ. of New Brunswick, The Banff Centre, Nepean Public Library, Halburton Highlands, etc. In 2009 she was awarded a residency/fellowship by Civitella Ranieri Foundation and spent two months in retreat at a castle in Umbria, Italy, while working on her novel Requiem. Her award-winning novel, Deafening, has been translated into 17 languages, most recently in China, and has been optioned for film. It also won the Kingston Reads Award, MacEwan University Book of the Year, the Drummer General's Award & was chosen for CBC's 2006 Canada Reads and Combat des Livres. Two short novels Missing and Listen! (Grass Roots 2011 and 2012) were written for the Good Reads project supported by ABC Life Literacy of Canada and are intended for adults who are learning to read or upgrading literacy skills. Ms. Itani's 2011 novel Requiem - internationally published/translated - was chosen as a top fiction title in the U.S. by the Washington Post in 2012. A frequent bookclub choice, Requiem was also selected for 'One Book, One Burlington' (2015); and "One Book, One Mississauga' (2017).

TELL (HarperCollins 2014; Grove/Atlantic, U.S. Jan/2015) is set in post-war 1919 small-town Ontario, and follows 4 characters from the earlier novel, Deafening. The novel examines untold secrets, and the effects of trauma as a result of World War I.

Ms. Itani has participated in humanitarian and volunteer work all her life, and for many years was a final judge & on the Advisory Board, for Youth in Motion's annual 'Top 20 Under 20.' She has also mentored young writing students, and  worked as a volunteer for many organizations, including The Ottawa Deaf Center (where she also served on the Board of Directors), Big Sisters, ALSO (Adult and Family Literacy), PWC (People Words and Change), Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Habitat for Humanity, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Immigrant Services, public schools in Canada and Germany, etc. In 1999, she launched the Itani Family Flute Award, a prize awarded annually to a young musician with the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Frances lives in Ottawa and is presently at work on a new historical novel and a children's book.

Check out her website at:



Requiem. HarperCollins; Grove/Atlantic (U.S.); Berlin Verlag (Germany); ARKA (Bulgaria), 2011
Deafening. HarperCollins; Grove/Atlantic; Hodder & Stoughton; transl. in 17 territories, 2003.
Remembering the Bones. HarperCollins; Grove/Atlantic; Hodder & Stoughton; Berlin Verlag; China, 2007
Poached Egg on Toast. HarperCollins, 2004
Pack Ice and Truth or Lies (2 story collections). Oberon Press, 1989
Leaning, Leaning Over Water. HarperCollins; Hodder & Stoughton; Berlin Verlag, 1998
Man Without Face. Oberon Press, 1994
Missing. Grass Roots, 2011
Listen!. Grass Roots, 2012
A Season of Mourning (poetry). Brick, 1988 & 2014
Linger by the Sea (children's book). Brunswick Press, 1979
Best Friend Trouble (children's picture book). Orca, 2014
Tell. HarperCollins; Black Cat (Grove/Atlantic) U.S.;, 2014
That's My Baby. HarperCollins, 2017
The Company We Keep. HarperCollins, 2020


Library and Archives, Canada Scholars Award, 2019
Winner: Commonwealth Writer's Prize (Best Book, Caribbean & Canada Region) for Deafening, 2005
Finalist/Shortlisted: Scotiabank Giller Prize for Tell, 2014
Finalist/Shortlisted: International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Deafening 2005
Winner: Canadian Authors Assoc. Jubilee Award for Best Story Collection for Poached Egg on Toast, 2005
Finalist/Shortlisted: William Saroyan International Literary Award for Deafening, 2005
Finalist/Shortlisted: Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Remembering the Bones, 2008
Winner: two Ottawa Book Awards (Fiction) for Man Without Face & Poached Egg on Toast , 1995 & 2005
Winner: three CBC Literary Awards for Short Stories, First Prize 1995 and 1996; 3rd prize 1984
Eligible for National Public Readings Program: