Synthesis Essay – “I Grew Up” and “Night”
“I Grew Up”, by Lenore Keeshig-Tobias, and “Night”, by Yvonne Trainer, are two poems which tell of two children’s upbringings, one which was described as “the most beautiful place”(1, 3rd line), and one that was filled with anger and abuse. Both of these poems confront, and defy the generic stereotypes commonly associated with Native American reserves and traditional American family farms.
Lenore’s poem focuses on a child reminiscing about her childhood living on the reserve. She was a child who would “lie under trees” and hide “in the treetops” with her friends (1, 9th line and 2, 18th line). This girl had an active, happy, and social upbringing, despite living on a reserve. As a child she couldn’t have been any happier. The girl and her friends would “laugh at teachers and tourists” who thought of their bush as “forests or woods” because those “were places of fairy tale text” (3, lines 1-6). As a child, the girl did not understand the view of the outsiders. For them the reserves have been stereotyped as horrible places. Keeshig-Tobias has shown us that the negative stereotypes that surround Native American reserves should be taken with a grain of salt.
Stereotypes are found in every facet of life, even in the traditional American family farm. In Trainer’s poem the child “was never afraid of the night”, and would “sit on the farmhouse step (and) count 5 up from the Big Dipper to find the smaller one. The one with the bent handle” (lines 1-5). When one thinks of a family farm thoughts of wholesome values come to mind, not one of a child using the night sky as an escape from their reality. The child says, “nobody throws the stars” “even the spaces belong” (lines 18, 20) for the only peace the child will find lies far away from the family farm. Like the previous poem, this one too shares the common theme of confronting stereotypes, except in this case, not so lightheartedly....