by Paul Fleischman
Where It All Goes Down
A Garden in Cleveland, Ohio
We're about to get super specific here, Shmoopers. We don't just know the city (Cleveland, Ohio) or even the type of space (a garden) where Seedfolks takes place. We also know the very street where it all goes down: Gibb Street. Oh, and it's during the spring and summer, too, in case you wanted to get even more particular.
In some ways, this is a pretty small setting for an entire novel. But this garden has plenty going for it. It may start out as a trash-filled lot that no one wants to deal with, but over time, it becomes so important to the characters that it's their favorite spot in all of Cleveland.
So when Nora is up in the super tall Terminal Tower, she knows that the best part of the city is the bit not everyone can see. Check it out:
I looked at all the tourists, who'd no notion it existed, who thought they were seeing all of Cleveland, and restrained myself from pointing and shouting out, "The Gibb Street garden is there!" (10.9)
Talk about a hidden gem.
So the whole story takes place in that little Gibb Street garden, right? Well, sort of. Technically all the characters live by Gibb Street, so that's where their planting adventures take place. But most of them come from different parts of the United States or even different countries. And as the characters tell their stories, we get a teeny tiny glimpse of the other places they come from.
Are you wondering what it must have been like for Wendell to grow up in Kentucky? Well, he tells us a tidbit about how he learns to farm. Or perhaps you're interested in hearing about Sae Young's life back in Korea? We hear a smidge about how her family grew hot peppers. And the list goes on. Even though there's one main setting for this book, each character brings a little bit of his or her own past settings to Cleveland.
It looks like this community garden has become an international hub.
So why Cleveland? Why not Sacramento or Atlanta or Boulder? Well, Fleischman chose the location because Cleveland is home to a huge number of immigrants. He figured that Cleveland would be the perfect setting for bringing so many people together to grow a garden:
I wanted to focus on recent immigrants. This led me to choose Cleveland as a setting, a city famous for its foreign-born population in the past and now absorbing immigrants from new quarters of the globe. Famous as well for its harsh, white winters, Cleveland would be a place with a short summer, where the sign of green would be especially precious. (Afterward.9)
Well, Mr. Fleischman, with the Gibb Street garden, we'd say you got your wish.