Sawai, Gloria Ostrem

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SAWAI, Gloria Ostrem

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced Sa-wye; born in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Gustav and Ragnhild (Skaret) Ostrem; children: Naomi, Kenji. Education: Augsburg College, B.A., 1957; University of Montana, M.F.A., 1977.

ADDRESSES: Home—4403 52A St., Camrose, Alberta T4V 1W2, Canada.

CAREER: Camrose Lutheran College, Camrose, Alberta, Canada, instructor in English, 1958-63; Metropolitan Community College, Minneapolis, MN, instructor in English, 1963-68; University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, instructor in creative writing, 1977-80; Writers' Guild of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, instructor in creative writing, beginning 1982.

MEMBER: Playwrights Canada, Writers Guild of Alberta.

AWARDS, HONORS: Governor-General's Literary Award for fiction, Canada Council for the Arts, 2002, for A Song for Nettie Johnson.


Neighbour (juvenile play; first produced in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at Alberta Theater Projects, 1978), Playwrights Canada Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1981.

The Nose of Edward Wunderlicht (one-act play), first produced in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at Lunchbox Theater, 1983.

(With Beverly Harris and Fred Stenson) Three Times Five: Short Stories, edited by Douglas Barbour, NeWest Press (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1983.

A Song for Nettie Johnson (short stories), Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 2001.

Work represented in anthologies, including Aurora, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978; Short Stories by Canadian Women, 1984; Three by Five, edited by Douglas Barbour, NeWest Press (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1984; and Eighty-two: Best Canadian Stories, Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada). Contributor to magazines, including Grain and Shepherd.

SIDELIGHTS: Gloria Ostrem Sawai once told CA: "Most of my writing has a strong connection to the land. Even titles sometimes refer to the earth. For all kinds of reasons, I think one's relation to the earth is crucial. Although the earth tells of extravagant generosity, renewal, and nurture, it also speaks to me of harshness—birth, violence, indifference, death—the bottom-line realities. The Saskatchewan prairie, where I grew up, provides me with a setting that is severe and barren, a place where the truths of civilization can sometimes be treated. I find this paradox of the destructive yet life-sustaining land interesting and central in my writing.

"Certain religious concepts are also important to me: grace, reconciliation, redemption. I believe that there is redemption for the broken and the flawed of the earth, that redemption comes as a gift from often unexpected sources, that one needs to keep one's eyes open at all times to the many manifestations of this gift so as not to miss it or deny it. This concept is reflected in all my work, especially in the play Neighbour and in the short story 'The Ground You Stand On.' Further, I feel reconciliation is the act (or activity) requiring the greatest courage and steadfastness possible. Prospero, in Shakespeare's play The Tempest, used his art for the purpose of reconciliation. And although I don't write with a view to some ultimate meaning, I wouldn't mind if someone saw this purpose in my work."



Books in Canada, January-February, 2003, K. Gordon Neufeld, review of A Song for Nettie Johnson.*