Itani was born in Belleville, Ontario, and grew up in Quebec. She studied nursing in Montreal and North Carolina, a profession which she taught and practised for eight years. However, after enrolling in a writing class taught by W. O. Mitchell, she decided to change careers.
Itani has published thirteen books, ranging from fiction and poetry to a children's book. Her 2003 novel Deafening was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Award, and won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Caribbean and Canada region, and has been published in 16 countries.
- Linger By the Sea (1979) (illustrated by Molly Bobak)
- Best Friend Trouble (2014) (illustrated by Genevieve Despres)
- Pack Ice (1989)
- Truth or Lies (1989)
- Man Without Face (1994)
- Poached Egg on Toast (2004)
- A Season of Mourning
- No Other Lodgings (1978)
- Rentee Bay: poems from the Bay of Quinte, 1785-89 (1983)
- Leaning, Leaning Over Water (1998)
- Deafening (2003)
- Remembering the Bones (2007)
- Missing (2011)
- Requiem (2011)
- Tell (2014) (shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize)
- That's My Baby (2017)
- "Belleville-born author Frances Itani won acclaim for new book’s prequel". Belleville Intelligencer, August 29, 2014.
- "Caring, in deeds as well as words"[permanent dead link]. canada.com, October 28, 2007.