Seedfolks Themes

Initiative to Make a Positive Change

As the first of the garden’s “seedfolks,” the young Kim is the most prominent example of the novella’s theme of taking initiative and the power to make positive change. As Wendell remarks, there is plenty about one’s life, and about the world at large, that it is impossible to change. However, it is possible to change a vacant lot filled with trash into a beautiful and nutritious garden. This change can in turn lead to other transformations in the lives of the gardeners and in the neighborhood more broadly. Kim is just a young kid who decides to plant a few beans in an abandoned parcel of land. However, her small, decisive act inspires others, setting off a chain reaction that leads to many positive changes.

Family and belonging

Many of the characters in Seedfolks come from families that have been broken or separated by violence, trauma, and immigration. More broadly, the Gibb Street area is known as a working-class neighborhood that suffers from unemployment, robberies, and violence. For this reason, most of the residents do not feel like that they are a part of a community and they leave the first chance they get. However, the garden changes this. While the gardeners are not related by blood, and each comes from very different cultures and countries, they come to feel like they are part of a community and even a family. This is because they come to share space, interact, and to genuinely care for one another and for their shared project. In this way, Fleischman comments on the power of collective efforts to transcend differences, create found family, and strengthen community ties.

Stereotypes and prejudices

At first, the neighborhood is divided along lines of national origin, race, and language. For the most part, the residents do not really know their neighbors who speak and look differently from them. However, they make prejudiced judgments about them based on stereotypes. An Italian neighbor gets upset with Amir and calls him a “dirty foreigner.” Maricela feels that people of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent hate her for being Mexican because they think she snuck in illegally. People are wary of Royce because he’s a Black teenager and “looks dangerous.” However, the garden gives the residents of Gibb Street the opportunity to really get to know one another as people, beyond generalizations and stereotypes. This, in turn, enables them to form real friendships and come together as a community.


Gibb Street is a run-down and fairly hopeless place. The neighborhood is filled with trash. There are robberies and shootings. During the day, unemployed people drink alcohol on the street. Those who are able to improve their economic situations leave the first chance they get. Amid this hopeless environment, the garden becomes a motor and symbol of hope. Through their ability to transform a vacant lot into a beautiful garden and unite as a community, the Gibb Street residents gain hope in their neighbors, their neighborhood, and the capacity to make positive change.