What helps Tio Juan change from a baby back into a man in Seedfolks?

In Seedfolks, Tio Juan turns back into an adult through his family’s help and gardening. He had metaphorically turned into a baby because of immigration, alienation, and a language barrier. After he shows an interest in the community garden, his niece provides seeds and a shovel, and her son Gonzalo helps translate for the gardeners who do not speak Spanish.

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Paul Fleischman’s novel Seedfolks includes the stories of numerous people whose lives are transformed through their participation in a community garden effort. One of them is Juan, an elderly Guatemalan man who moves to the United States to live with his family.

Chapter 4 centers on the character of...

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Paul Fleischman’s novel Seedfolks includes the stories of numerous people whose lives are transformed through their participation in a community garden effort. One of them is Juan, an elderly Guatemalan man who moves to the United States to live with his family.

Chapter 4 centers on the character of Gonzalo, an eighth-grade boy who analyzes his own and other family members’ experiences as immigrants. Gonzalo observes the infantilizing effects of immigration, as older people are turned back into babies because they become totally dependent on others for their well-being. His mother’s Tio, Spanish for uncle, Juan is among them. Juan is unfamiliar with the city’s geography and US lifeways, which alienates him from society. Because he does not speak English, he finds it difficult to communicate.

Juan’s situation changes when he wanders into the nascent community garden. Having been a farmer all his life until his international move, he understands the processes that others are carrying out. Gonzalo’s mother seizes on this opportunity to get Juan involved in something meaningful to him. After she purchases a shovel and some seeds, she encourages Gonzalo to accompany his uncle to the garden and help him get acclimated. Although Gonzalo’s assistance is important, what matters most is the common, unspoken language of seeds and soil that Juan shares with his fellow gardeners.

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