Joan Louise Barfoot

Joan Louise Barfoot, journalist, novelist (b at Owen Sound, Ont, 17 May 1946). Growing up in Owen Sound, Barfoot moved to London, Ontario to attend the UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, where she completed her BA in English (1969). She became interested in journalism and worked as a journalist for several newspapers throughout her home province, including the London Free Press, the TORONTO STAR, the Windsor Star and the Owen Sound Sun-Times. Barfoot began writing novels in the late 1970s, publishing Abra (1978), Dancing in the Dark (1982), Duet for Three (1986), Family News (1989), Plain Jane (1992), Charlotte and Claudia Keeping in Touch (1994), Some Things About Flying (1997), Getting Over Edgar (1999), Critical Injuries (2001), Luck (2005) and Exit Lines (2008).

Joan Barfoot's novels focus on the domestic lives of women in Canadian society. Of particular interest is the duality of family relationships, in particular the emotional benefits and potential damage caused by such relationships. Barfoot's first novels feature female characters who flee their domestic lives in an effort to re-conceptualize their sense of self. This theme can be seen in Barfoot's novel Abra, which centres on a young woman who abandons her husband and relocates to the Canadian wilderness with their children. In style and theme Joan Barfoot's work is starkly realist, and is often considered part of the Southern Ontario Gothic sub-genre which includes such notable Canadian writers as Alice MUNRO, Margaret ATWOOD, Robertson DAVIES and James REANEY.

Joan Barfoot has achieved great success both critically and commercially. Her second novel, Dancing in the Dark, was made into a film (1986) which won three GENIE AWARDS for best art direction, best adapted screenplay, and best performance by an actress in a leading role. Barfoot's novels have been nominated for and won numerous awards. Critical Injuries was nominated for both the Trillium Book Award (2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002), and Luck was nominated for the SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE (2005). Barfoot's first novel, Abra, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award (1978), and the author received the 1992 Marian ENGEL Award, which is presented to a female Canadian novelist in mid-career for her entire body of work. Barfoot has also been honoured with the Huron University College Medal of Distinction (2005) and is a member of the Writers' Union of Canada and PEN Canada.