by Juliana Que
Reviewed by Ricardo Johnson
Juliana Que’s “Sleeping Under Stars” comes from the 2016 issue of the University of Minnesota’s undergraduate magazine The Tower. The theme for this issue was “Woven Voices” brought together to show a common thread of experiences. Que’s nonfiction story aligns with the theme of the issue with the telling of childhood innocence and the fear one realizes as they mature.
The story begins with the protagonist recalling her youth and the time she spent with her two siblings at their divorced father’s house. A mattress that they discover at their father’s house becomes the center of their entertainment. The children begin riding it down the stairs as kids who aren’t concerned with the physical consequences of doing something dangerous like that. However, as they age, their bodies become too big to ride the mattress and they begin to develop a sense of danger, which steers them away from riding. Although they cannot ride the mattress anymore, they make use of it by dragging it out to the front lawn in order to sleep outside. They are too young and innocent to comprehend the dangers of sleeping outside alone.
The conflict arises when a nosy neighbor alerts the children’s mother of their new sleeping arrangement. When their mother arrives and begins to reprimand their father, the protagonist is confused because she does not understand that she could be in danger. The story concludes with the protagonist reflecting on her past self.
This was before I grew afraid of the night. This was before the world burrowed deep into my skin, before anxiety gnawed at my bones; back before the Unknown had ever moved into my home, threw out the mattress and taught me fear.
The sobering conclusion to the story is one that adults must come to terms with. That is the realization that danger exists in the world. The usage of this story in the issue of The Tower demonstrates that the editors are interested in the entirety of our woven voices and not just the light-hearted moments. The death of childhood innocence is an unfortunate inevitability that walks hand-in-hand with maturity. However, this loss can in some ways inspire one to appreciate the moments in life because of the new found awareness of human mortality. The ability to embrace the ephemeral nature of life that is caused by danger, safely respect it, and then truly live is what makes life so precious. Fear of the night can be crippling, however it is that fear that makes our mortality special. Although our paths are forever changing, one can find immense beauty in them.
“Sleeping Under Stars” was originally published in the 2016 Issue of The University of Minnesota’s publication The Tower.
Click here for the web link to the original story.