Paci, Frank Gilbert

Frank Gilbert Paci, writer (b at Pesaro, Italy 5 Aug. 1948). F.G. Paci's family escaped a war-ravaged landscape of poor agricultural villages in central Italy when they emigrated to Canada in 1952. Paci grew up in the immigrant west end of Sault Ste Marie. He studied English at St Michael's College (BA1970), a Basilian affiliated institution at the University of Toronto (BEd 1975). To pay his university expenses he spent the summers working in the steel plant in Sault Ste Marie. In Toronto, where he met Dave Godfrey, Marian ENGEL, and other Canadian writers, Paci was encouraged to write by Margaret LAURENCE, who was writer-in-residence at the time. Paci went on to study English at Carleton University (MA 1980). He taught high-school English in Mississauga, Ontario, until 2008.

Paci's debut novel, The Italians (1978), was one of the first novels to deal with the Italian Canadian immigrant experience. His second novel, Black Madonna (1982), is still his most popular book because of the depiction of immigrant women and feminist ideas. With more than 10 novels, Paci is one of the most important Italian Canadian authors working in English. He helped to create the phenomenon of ITALIAN CANADIAN LITERATURE. His narratives are in the realist tradition and explore the inter-generational conflict of Italian immigrant families in Northern Ontario. The philosophical dimensions of personal identity are evident in Black Madonna and The Father (1984). In 1991 F.G. Paci began a narrative series with Black Blood, followed with Under the Bridge (1992), and Sex and Character (1993). The latter recreates a scene between the protagonist, who is an aspiring writer, and Margaret Laurence. This bildungsroman series includes The Rooming-House (1996), Italian Shoes (2002), and Hard Edge (2004).

While on one level Paci's novels deal with ethnic duality and the struggle of immigrant families, on another, they explore the process of self-discovery and inner conflicts of the artist. He departed from the Black Blood series with Icelands (1999), which deals with the triumphs and pitfalls of families and hockey. In many of Paci's novels the characters from northern Ontario are struggling with life in Toronto, and thus he explores migration and exile within Canada itself. Losers (2002) deals with religious themes, which Paci has often touched on in other novels.

In 1984 F.G. Paci was invited to Rome for the first conference on Italian Canadian writing and history. In 1988-89 he was the first writer to hold the Mariano Elia Chair in Italian Canadian Studies at York University. Short stories and excerpts from his novels have been included in Other Solitudes (1990), Pens of Many Colours (1993), Making a Difference (1996), and The Anthology of Italian-Canadian Writing (1998). Despite his many successful books, Paci has been called Canada's invisible novelist. In an age of instant celebrity and shameless self-promotion, Paci shuns publicity and even modest literary events. His literary achievements have, nevertheless, been recognized in several critical studies.