Topics for Discussion

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1. On the April Sunday that she plants her first seeds, Kim's apartment includes an altar that has contained candles, incense sticks, food, and a photograph of her father to commemorate an anniversary of his death. What are the origins of such family altars to the spirits of the dead? In which cultures are altars to dead ancestors common? How does the Vietnamese family's altar compare with the altars that Latin American families create to observe El Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, each year?

2. Why is Kim living in Cleveland, Ohio, instead of the village in which her father farmed in Vietnam? What events might explain her family's presence in America?

3. Ana tells us the national or ethnic origins of other Gibb Street families but tells nothing about her own origin except that her parents were born in a village named Groza. In what country was Groza? Was it Romania? What was Groza like when her family lived there? Do people still live in Groza? Does it still have that name? Do we see that name on a map? If Ana's family left Groza for America in 1919, what events would be likely to explain their immigration to America?

4. Amir says that the Cleveland population includes many people who came from Poland, and Ana says that Gibb Street once included "a lot of Slovaks and Italians." Which immigrants besides Poles might the label Slovak include? If the Slovaks and the Italians both arrived prior to the Great Depression, when did they leave Europe? What events might explain their immigration?

5. Today, Ana says, she sees families moving to Gibb Street who came from Mexico, Cambodia, and countries she does not know. How might these immigrants' reasons for coming to America compare with the earlier immigrants' reasons? Would the Mexican immigrants have left Mexico for the same reasons that the Cambodians left their homeland?

6. What are the factors that make large numbers of people leave their homelands, and at around the same time, to live in other countries? How have the trends in immigration to America changed since Ana's family moved to Gibb Street in 1919? Which national groups have been the latest to immigrate to America? What caused them to leave their homelands?

7. Can everyone immigrate to America who wishes to do so? When and why did America first encourage immigration? When and why did America first begin to control immigration? What laws serve this purpose? Which federal agency is most in charge of enforcing the immigration laws? What problems is that agency being challenged to solve today?

8. What does it mean to say that an immigrant to America has become naturalized? What process does the naturalization involve? What ceremony signals its formal success?

9. At what stage in their lives in America, according to Ana, did the typical group settle on Gibb Street?

10. At what stage in their lives in America, according to Ana, did the typical group leave Gibb Street?

11. What achievement made it possible, according to Ana, for the typical group to move to better neighborhoods?

12. Would the African Americans living on Gibb Street have come there for the same reasons that the others had come? What were the African Americans commonly fleeing? What were they commonly seeking? To what degrees had they succeeded when this story was told? What main challenges have African Americans, as a group, had to meet?

13. Ana notes that "Negro" families began moving to this section of Cleveland during the Depression and that "Gibb Street became the line between the blacks and the whites, like a border between countries." What might it mean that she has remained on Gibb Street after most of the other white people have left? Was it good for the black people and the white people of the neighborhood to remain as divided as if they lived in separate countries? Why or why not?

14. What did Ana assume that Kim was burying? Why did she think of "drugs, money, or a gun" before she thought of vegetable seeds?

15. Kim tells us that her family was from Vietnam, but Wendell first speaks of Kim as "the Chinese girl," and others speak of her as "Oriental." What might that mean? Is it important to learn how the people of different Asian cultures differ, as well as how they relate?

16. Gonzalo argues two theses, the first being that "the older you are, the younger you become when you move to America." Does his story prove that thesis to our satisfaction? Have you experienced or observed situations that caused your adult relatives to depend upon persons much younger to lead, represent, or supervise them? Did the younger persons prove useful?

17. Why do younger people seem to be able to meet the challenges of life in America? Do you think Gonzalo's second thesis—that cartoons make you smart—is as supportable as his first one? Does Gonzalo appear to have benefited at all from his American school? If he had depended entirely upon the playground and the cartoons to train him, what other things might he have learned besides how to read, write, count, and speak well in English?

18. Leona tells us of the medicinal uses her grandmother made of goldenrod. What do we know about this plant? What can we learn? In what medicines of other names is this herb used today? What are some of the other herbs that are popular in today's medicines?

19. What do we think of the strategy that Leona finally uses to convince the Public Health Department to haul the junk off the vacant lot? Why did she turn to the Public Health Department? Why did she decide to take a sample of the garbage along? Did it help that the City of Cleveland owned the lot? Had that lot been in your own city, what laws would have applied? Is it good for readers to learn these things?

20. What event in the garden was the most effective in making Sae Young feel a part of the family there? What role did Sam play in this change? What role does Sae Young herself play in the change? What do these examples suggest that individuals can do to help others feel a part of their group?

21. The story leaves us to imagine how Kim's family reacted when she began taking beans home to them. What do you think her mother and older sister said? What do you think Kim said or did to explain the beans? What might she have had to do to get her family to believe her? Try dramatizing the scene that you think may have occurred between Kim and her family when she entered their apartment with her first harvest of fresh beans.

22. Except for Mr. Myles' flowers, the garden's plants are all edible and nutritious. Make a list off all the nutritious plants growing the the garden. Which ones would we recognize if we saw them growing in a garden? Why was Wendell sure that what Kim had planted were beans? Why was it better for the teenager who helped Sam to plant pumpkin seeds instead of marijuana?

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