A-R International: Joan Barfoot

Joan Barfoot
Authors-Readers International

Photo credit: Ken Wightman

Joan Barfoot was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, and graduated with a degree in English from the University of Western Ontario in 1969. She worked as a reporter and editor for various newspapers in Ontario including the Windsor Star, the Toronto Sun and the London Free Press. As a child, while she and her mother watched a squirrel in their back yard from their kitchen, her mother told Barfoot to tell her the squirrel’s story and she’d write it down. Barfoot doesn’t remember the story but remembers her delight when her mother read the story back to her and the power of creating it. Barfoot was also encouraged to write by a teacher who told Barfoot she wrote well and to consider some word-related career. In addition to writing Barfoot occasionally teaches creative writing classes though she believes writing ought to be an entirely private pleasure and a puzzle. She lives in London, Ontario.

Joan Barfoot is the award-winning author of 11 novels, ranging from Abra, which won the Books in Canada (now Amazon) prize for first novels, to Critical Injuries, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Trillium Award, to Luck, shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Her work, which reviewers have variously called ‘harrowing and hilarious’, and ‘gloriously subversive’, has been compared internationally to the fictions of Carol Shields, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood and Margaret Drabble, and also include Dancing in the Dark, which was adapted into an award-winning Canadian entry in the Cannes, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals, Duet for Three, Family News, Plain Jane, Charlotte and Claudia Keeping in Touch, Some Things About Flying, Getting Over Edgar, and Exit Lines.

Translations include French, German, Italian, Russian, and various Scandinavian languages. In English, the novels have been published in the U.S. and U.K., as well as Canada.

Professional Activities, Awards:

Shortlisted, 2005 Scotiabank Giller Prize – Luck

Longlisted, Man Booker Prize, 2002 – Critical Injuries

Shortlisted, Trillium Book Award, 2001 – Critical Injuries

Marian Engel Award, 1992

Books in Canada First Novel Award – Abra

Honorary doctorate, Western University, 2013

Huron University College Medal of Distinction, 2005

London YM-YWCA Women of Distinction Award, 1986

Member: Writers’ Union of Canada and P.E.N. Canada

A recipient of the Marian Engel Award (presented to a female Canadian novelist in mid-career for her entire body of work), Joan Barfoot has also been a journalist during much of her career. She lives in London, Ontario, Canada.


Joan Barfoot first came to my attention in 1978 when I was a brand-new bookseller in Calgary and she won the Books in Canada First Novel Award for Abra. I loved that book, and I credit it for sowing the seed in my brain that I might one day try writing my own stories. Many years later, when I became a sales rep, I was selling a number of Joan’s reprint and original novels for both Lester & Orpen Dennys and Key Porter Books. (Anna Porter, who was the publisher of Key Porter Books, is listed on this Authors-Readers International series.) I don’t remember actually meeting Joan in person though until she was in Calgary in 2010 to promote Exit Lines at the Memorial Park Branch of Calgary Public Library. While I only own six print copies of Joan’s books, I have read most of the rest online as borrowed eBooks from the library! She’s always been one of my favourite authors to read, and her stories and storytelling are an influence on my own writing. Thanks for writing, Joan Barfoot!


These are Joan Barfoot’s books I have on my Bequia book shelf!
Several are signed copies.

And I have a copy of Exit Lines at the trailer!

What Joan Barfoot has been up to lately: In renewal news, e-books of the Barfootian oeuvre have just been redesigned, and my website’s being updated, presumably as I type.

For more information about Joan Barfoot, please see her updated website.


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