Seedfolks

11May10

by Paul Fleischman

Seedfolks is another multi-perspective story by Paul Fleischman like Bull Run. It tells the story of a garden formed on a vacant lot in Cleveland, Ohio. Starting out as a trash-filled dump, the garden becomes a place of great pride and value.

Seedfolks demonstrates the carefully craftsmenship and expertise in storytelling for which Fleishcman is so known. Fleischman presents the perspectives of thirteen different members of this community, who vary in age, gender, ethnic and cultural, linguistic and social backgrounds. Some have been in the neighborhood all their lives and have seen it evolve over a great number of years, and others are new arrivals to the neighborhood and the county.  The perspectives include: Kim -a  young Vietnamese girl, Ana – an eldery Rumanian woman, Wendell – a middle-aged African American male, Gonzalo – a young man from Guatemala, Leona – a middle-aged American American woman, Sam – a Caucasian male lobbyist, Virgil – a young Haitian boy, Sae Young – an elderly Korean woman, Curtis  – a young African American male, Nora -a  British woman, Maricella – a Mexican, pregnant sixteen-year-old,  Amir – an Indian man, and Florence – an African American woman. Each perspective offers a new look on the garden as a source of healing, profit, or enjoyment. For example, Gonzalo’s story shares how the garden gave his displaced grandfather his humanity back by letting him have his skilled trade (farming) back.

Florence explains what is means to be a seedfolks are the first arrivals of a family to a new place, and that the people from the Gibb Street garden are seedfolks, too. All of these people from a fragmented neighborhood of racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds are brought together through the beauty and their mutual investments in the Gibb Street garden. Although there are some physical barriers put up in the garden itself (chicken wire, fences, etc), the garden does much more to break down barriers among the people that become involved in it’s creation and maintenance. Sometimes this barriers are internal, sometimes they are communication or generational barriers, and others they are breaking down barriers of racial tensions and cultivating, like the crops in the garden, friendships that make them more whole and satisfied. Regardless of the type of barriers going up or coming down, this garden is a special place for a lot of people, and is a reminder to reflect on the unnecessary and ways our neighborhoods are constructed or perceived as dividing forces rather than unifying.

Although the story is uplifting overall, I found the last section to be a little disheartening about the tendency of mankind to take one step forward and two steps back. Florence mentions that after the first year in the garden, “…landlords started charging more for apartments that look on the garden.” However disheartening, it is the reality of the way many people are only after a buck off of his fellowman, even if (as in this case) they did nothing to earn it.

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