Birdsell, Sandra (1942-)

Sandra Birdsell and Shep, Oman's Creek, Winnipeg.
Debra Moser

Sandra Louise Birdsell, one of Canada’s most significant writers, was born in Hamiota, Manitoba on April 22, 1942, of Métis and Mennonite heritage. From her first collection of short fiction, Night Travellers (1982), Birdsell was recognized as a rare new literary voice. Ladies of the House, a second short story collection, followed in 1984; the two collections were subsequently published in the single-volume Agassiz Stories. Birdsell’s first novel, The Missing Child (1989), which won the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award, was an evocative magic realist portrait of the fictional town of Agassiz.

Sandra Birdsell has been nominated twice for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction (for the novel The Chrome Suite in 1992, and the short story collection The Two-Headed Calf in1997) and she was the recipient of the Marion Engel Award in 1993. Birdsell lived in Winnipeg for thirty years before moving to Regina in 1997. In 2001, she published The Russländer, a novel that explores events in revolutionary Russia that led to the emigration of Mennonites to Manitoba in the 1920s. The Russländer won three Saskatchewan Book Awards and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize.

Sandra Birdsell has served as writer-in-residence at numerous universities; her books have been translated into Spanish, French, and German, and her stories have been much anthologized. She is the author of film scripts, radio dramas and a children’s book, but is best known for the originality, stylistic range, and humanity of her fiction.

Joan Thomas