The Half-White Album
January 30, 2024
Cynthia Sylvester's The Half-White Album (University of New Mexico Press 2023) is a collection of stories, flash fiction, and poems revolving around the journey of a travelling band, The Covers. The stories are songs on the album, beginning with “Live at the House of Towers,” about a woman’s memories of her mother and home. The story of Shima (and her husband Claude) begins with all of her six daughters being taken by missionaries. The 10-year-old youngest, whom she calls The Last One, and the missionaries call Ruth, keeps running away. Shima is afraid because the missionaries will teach them to forget the songs and stories of their people. In Live at the House at the Edge of the World, Ruth is grown and eating dinner with Albert. We meet Margarita, who was born with cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair and a parade of other characters who struggle to love, live, and survive in a harsh world. These are stories of hope and despair, family and banishment, based out west in what was once the wide-ranging country of native American tribes.
Cynthia Sylvester is born into the Kiyaa’áanii Clan for the Bilagáana Clan and is an enrolled member of the Diné. She is a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines. She received the Native Writer Award at the Taos Writer’s Conference. She graduated from the University of New Mexico and received her MFA in creative writing from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Cynthia hosts Albuquerque DimeStories—3-minute stories written and read by the author. Hosting DimeStories is a way to give back and foster a writing community. A community of writers is at the core of what she attributes to her success, endurance, and joy in writing. Writing is a solitary endeavor. “So much of what we writers write never sees the light of day.” A DimeStorie, fiction or non-fiction, is a way to have an achievable goal each month (about 500 words) and provides a venue to read the work to a receptive audience. Having a community of writers is important because Cynthia, like many writers, works a “9 to 5.” Her profession for over thirty years has been physical therapy. She comes from a line of “medicine women.” Her mother and aunts were nurses, and she and her sister have health professions. Cynthia’s career in medicine is often reflected in her work as a writer. When not working as a writer or a PT, Cynthia loves to box, take walks with her wife and their dog, Zeus, hang out with friends and family and talk about writing, TV shows, movies, books, sports, what happened last week or last year, whatever if there is a story involved, Cynthia is in her happy place.