Flannery O’ Conner once said, “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” This statement could not be any truer for local author Sylvia Ross. Much of her creative fiction is a mirror to her life and although she only recently gained notoriety her writing career spans decades.
Ross has recently expanded her personal anthology to include, ‘Fables in an Old Style: Book One and Two.’ Ross’ journey into children’s books began while teaching at Vandalia Elementary School in Porterville, which was, and is the school attended by most of the children from the Tule River Indian Reservation. Furthermore, Ross’ grandchildren were of Mexican descent and through her experience working and caring for bilingual children she noticed that although they were fluent Spanish speakers they could not read nor write in the language.
In order to remedy this issue, early in her writing career, Ross wrote and illustrated two children’s book and had them translated in to Spanish.
Unfortunately, she soon came to learn that the demand for bilingual children’s books was scarce. Ross eventually packed away her manuscripts in the attic “to turn yellow,” as stated by Ross.
But her writing career did not end there as her stories and poems have been published in a number of anthologies. Many of her works have been featured in “News from Native California,” a quarterly magazine published by “HeyDay,” a nonprofit publication highlighting California’s diverse cultures. It was while working with HeyDay that her strong literary bond was formed and she was able to excel as an author.
Ross is of Native descent (Chukchansi Yokut) and an Oregon Trail descendant on both sides of her family. Due to her Native American heritage and her work with “News from Native California” she was ask to write children’s booked based on Native American folklore, ‘Lion Singer’ and ‘Blue Jay Girl’. Both books were written in a style that reflected the ways in which California’s Indian elders have used storytelling as entertainment as well as to teach children moral values.
Ross went on to write novels as well as poems and gave little thought to writing any more children’s books. However, while cleaning out her closet last spring she came across the bilingual manuscripts. Her grandchildren were still young enough to appreciate the books and much to Ross’ enjoyment had learned to speak both English and Spanish, “These books will be there for my great-grandchildren,” said Ross.
Both volumes of fables are simple parables told with careful attention to traditional and modern values. Many of the character are loosely based on Ross’ interaction with the children she has met in the educational system as well as her own children and grandchildren. Ross writes in the afterward in Book Two, “The conversion of harsh truths into fables is a time-honored tradition. These kinds of stories, even when they are have sad or bittersweet ends, give consolation to children whose lives are troubled.”
In early adulthood, she worked as a cell painter for Walk Disney Productions in Burbank. Ross is also the author of ‘Acts of Kindness, Acts of Contrition’, a mid-century themed novel concerning women’s and cultural issues between 1940 and 1980. Through born and raised in West Los Angeles, Ross and her Husband Robert, the former Dean of Voc-Tech at Porterville College have made the Great Valley of California their home. They currently reside in Exeter.
You can find Ross’ publications online at Amazon.com or at the Exeter Book Garden located at 189 E Pine St, Exeter.