Gloria Ruth Sawai (née Ostrem), writer, teacher (b at Minnesota, US 20 Dec 1932; d at Edmonton, 20 Jul 2011). Sawai moved to Canada as an infant and grew up in Admiral, Sask, Preeceville, Sask, and Ryley, Alta, where her father was a Lutheran pastor. She completed high school at Camrose (AB) Lutheran College (now Augustana Faculty, University of Alberta) and received a BA in English from Augsburg College, Minneapolis, in 1953 and a BFA at the University of Montana in 1977. She taught high school English for many years as well as writing at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton and at the Banff School of Fine Arts. Her play for young people, Neighbour, was published in 1981.
Sawai's reputation rests on her short fiction, which has been published and anthologized in Canada, England, the United States, and Denmark, as well as in Japan and Mexico in translation. Her best known and most widely anthologized story is "The Day I Sat with Jesus on the Sundeck and a Wind Came Up and Blew My Kimono Open and He Saw My Breasts" (1980). Jesus drops in for mid-morning coffee with a Moose Jaw housewife in this delightful work of magic realism. Her collection A Song for Nettie Johnson (2001) won several awards, among them the City of Edmonton Book Award and the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD for Fiction in 2002.
Sawai's work is filled with gentle humour. Her stories often focus on characters in pious communities, set amid the majestic extremes of weather and landscape on the prairies. They emphasize the power of grace to bring forth hope, wonder, and goodness out of circumscribed lives and straitened circumstances.