Sapergia, Barbara 1943-

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Sapergia, Barbara 1943-


Born 1943, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada; married Geoffrey Ursell. Education: University of Saskatchewan, B.A., 1964; University of Manitoba, M.A., 1966.


Home and office—Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


Playwright, poet, and fiction writer. Professor of English at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia; Coteau Books, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, cofounder, children's editor, and member of board of directors, beginning 1975.


Saskatchewan Book Award nomination, 2005, for Dry; John V. Hicks Long Manuscript Award, Saskatchewan Writers Guild, 2006, for play Nell.


Dirt Hills Mirage (poetry), 1980.

Foreigners (novel), 1984.

(Editor, with husband, Gary Hyland, and Geoffrey Ursell) 200 Percent Cracked Wheat (poetry anthology), Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1992.

Secrets in Water (novel), Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1999.

South Hill Girls, Fifth House, 2002.

Dry (novel), Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 2006.


Lokkinen (produced, 1982), Playwrights Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1984.

The Great Orlando, produced, 1985.

Matty and Rose, produced, 1985.

Roundup (produced, 1990), Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1992.

Also author of television and radio plays, including for the television series Prairie Berry Pie and Mythquest.


Barbara Sapergia, well known in her native Canada for her poetry, television, radio, and stage plays, and her short fiction, is also the children's editor of Coteau Books, the Saskatchewan-based publishing company she cofounded in the mid-1970s. Her plays include Matty and Rose, which focuses on the lives of Canadian railway porters working during the 1940s, and Roundup, a published play that focuses on the effects of prairie drought among the Saskatchewan farming community.

A more recent work by Sapergia, the novel Dry, is a bit of a departure for the writer, whose focus has predominately been on the lives of people living in small prairie towns. Dry takes place in the near future, as the effects of global warming have caused a severe, decade-long drought and the overuse of chemicals and other drastic land-use measures on the prairie's large-scale commercial farms. While many in the region have left or resorted to living underground to avoid the relentless sun, farmer Tomas Nilsson and his sister, horticulturalist Signy Nilsson, hope to find a way to grow wheat under drought conditions. The siblings' challenges increase when Magnus Dragland, a ruthless, land-grabbing neighbor, begins aggressive efforts to acquire the Nilssons' farm, which has been family land since it was settled by Swedish immigrants in the 1930s. As tensions grows and secrets between the neighboring farmers are revealed, Signy's deaf twelve-year-old son, David, reveals an unusual ability that affects the story's tragic outcome. Praising Dry, Ann Hart wrote in Kliatt that Sapergia's novel presents "a serious look at our kinship with the earth and each other."



Hillis, Doris, editor, Plainspeaking: Interviews with Saskatchewan Writers, Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 2004.


Books in Canada, January, 1982, review of Dirt Hills Mirage, p. 8; June, 1985, review of Foreigners, p. 21; May, 1992, review of South Hill Girls, p. 54; November, 2005, Antony Di Nardo, review of Dry, p. 17.

Canadian Book Review Annual, 2000, review of Secrets in Water, p. 161.

Canadian Review of Materials, September, 1992, review of South Hill Girls, p. 223.

Kliatt, May, 2006, Ann Hart, review of Dry, p. 24.

Maclean's, February, 25, 1985, Michelle Heinemann, review of Foreigners, p. 72.

Prairie Fire, Summer, 1993, review of 200 Percent Cracked Wheat, p. 119.

Quill & Quire, May, 1992, review of South Hill Girls, p. 20; November, 1999, review of Secrets in Water, p. 34.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2006, Kathleen Beck, review of Dry, p. 65.


Coteau Books Web site, (July 17, 2007), "Barbara Sapergia."

Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan Online, (July 17, 2007), Justin Messner, "Barbara Sapergia."