Different Childhoods

In Karen Sánchez-Eppler’s Keyword Childhood she mentions how childhoods and the idea of childhood can differ depending on gender, race, class, and other aspects on someone’s life and in Kirsten Learns a Lesson we get to see these differences between Kristen and Singing Bird and in the modern world these differences in childhood have only gotten greater. Kristen’s childhood is a life where her biggest struggle is trying to memorize a poem in English. For the most part Kristen’s life isn’t filled with tragedy, in fact Kristen’s childhood isn’t too different from a modern childhood, in the eyes of most Americans, where children play and ask questions and try to fit in and make friends. Although Singing Bird is represented as being curious like Kristen and even plays with dolls, she lives a very different life. There is a scene in the book where Singing Bird pulls out a knife, a bone needle, and sinew, which are the shredded fibers of animal tendon, from her leather pouch. Singing Bird is clearly living a far different life from Kristen. While Kristen childhood is a story of trying to belong in a new country, Singing Bird’s childhood is probably one of fear although that isn’t how it’s represented in the book. During this time period there were people who saw people like Singing Bird as a nuisance as someone who didn’t belong as lesser. While Kristen worried about memorizing a poem, Singing Bird might be worrying about being killed by white settlers or being forced to move from her home. In the modern world these differences still exist, but sometimes much more drastically. In a modern first world country most childhoods are spent having fun. There is never a worry about having enough to eat or worry about being invaded. Most children are sheltered from negative information and don’t learn about these things until they are older. Children in parts of the world that aren’t as developed might not have enough to eat or might be scared about attending school because of a war ragging on in their country. Everyone’s childhood varies, but sometimes they can be totally different worlds. Something cool is that Native American women and girls would actually help the men go hunting and would have responsibilities equivalent to their male counterpart. This strengthens my point about how Kristen and Singing Bird likely had very different ideas of girlhood.


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