Lillian Smith’s memoir When I Was a Child is a very moving piece that contrasts one’s true feelings and the reality outside of it. Smith gave her reader a white person’s view in a segregated community. In the beginning of the memoir, Lillian Smith purposefully and significantly discussed her cultural and familial influences when she was a child. It is apparent that her parents reared her to be unbiased, religious, and compassionate. Despite her family’s lack of financial trouble, her parents enforced the love of God and not the love of money. Also, Smith’s father explains to her that despite her heritage concerning slavery, they should push “straight in the future” (820). The Smith family seemed to have a modern mindset that went against what most of their neighbors believed in and did. However, reality “kicked in”. One significant sentence that the author stated was, “But I knew, though I said it firmly, that something was wrong. I knew my father and mother whom I passionately admired had done that which did not fit in with their teachings. I knew they had betrayed something which they held dear” (824). This quote shows the contradiction between her family’s beliefs and what they were required to do during that time. The significance of this entire passage is that deep down inside, Lillian Smith, even as a child, knew that her current conditions living in the segregated South was not right, and the consequences were unfair: not only to her losing a friend, but to her friend losing respect because of her ethnicity. Smith realized that her friend Janie was only accepted in her neighborhood and home because she appeared white, not because she was a child in need of a better home and better living conditions. This memoir shows why she became a civil rights activist.
“Us and Them” by David Sedaris is a very powerful and thoughtful piece that brings humor as well as something to think about. It causes the reader to not only analyze the narrative, but also analyze themselves. David Sedaris highlights the importance of family life and how technology disrupts that. Sedaris describes Mr. Tomkey as a neighbor who “did not believe in television” (802), which seemed very bizarre. Even though David’s parents agreed with that concept, they were still consumed by what was on the news. Sedaris even spied on the Tomkeys during their dinner as if they were a unique TV show. The main point of the narrative comes when Sedaris realizes how foolish he looks being selfish, not because he wanted the candy, but because he just did not want the Tomkeys to have it. His mother’s quote in the narrative, “You should look at yourself. I mean really look at yourself” (807) not only instructs her son to analyze his actions, but also the readers to analyze their lives. Also, the narrative was a great way to compare and contrast the quality of life between the Sedaris and Tomkey family. The Sedaris’ seem to be current with the news and various shows, but they rarely seemed to spend time together. The Tomkeys, however, do not watch TV but went on vacation together and came after Halloween in costumes that looked home-made. At first, it would seem that the Tomkeys were weird for not owning a television, but the narrative takes a turn to show how foolish David looks when he is consumed with his television.