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A Garden on Top of the World by Veronica Aronson - Book Tour

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Veronica Aronson

* YA Ecofiction *

Title: A Garden on Top of the World

Author: Virginia Aronson

Publisher: Dixi Books

Pages: 112

Genre: YA Ecofiction

The year is 2066 and life in Greenland is much warmer and more
crowded, and lacking in fresh food. Sixteen-year-old Jonnie lives in the
Relocation city of Shamed, where hundred-story high rises house
extended families from American coastal cities relocated after the Sixth
Sea Rise. Work and school are conducted from overcrowded apartments,
while the homeless camp out on the streets below. Jonnie is intersex and
identifies as she, although her family pressures her to identify as he.

Jonnie’s parents run a high-tech call center out of their apartment.
Her older siblings work there, and Jonnie must share a bedroom with two
much older nieces. For quiet and privacy, Jonnie often retreats to the
empty rooftop.

Red is a homeless man who takes up temporary residence in a pigeon
coop on the roof. After Red talks about the seeds in the birds’
droppings, Jonnie gets interested in heirloom seeds. Jonnie
knows little about how food grows because meals come in packages ordered
online and delivered by drone. Armed with a new understanding of
old-fashioned garden-grown food, Jonnie is determined to create her own
garden on the roof of her high rise. Along the way, she meets a former
cryosphere scientist, a botanist with an urban indoor garden, and twins
her own age, one of whom is intersex.

A GARDEN ON TOP OF THE WORLD is environmental fiction for ages 12 and
up. Jonnie’s search for who she is and what she might be able to offer
the world is one that will resonate with readers of all ages. The
information she learns about healthy food, sustainable agriculture, and
urban gardens may inspire readers to start their own gardens.




"This is the way the world is fed."

Just think

about how our world might change in the near future. With the increase in

global temperatures, polar ice caps will have experienced significant melting,

causing significant rises in sea levels. Coastal cities will be threatened and,

unless adequate precautions have been taken, vulnerable areas of the world may

have to be evacuated. Food and land will become more scarce, feeding the world

much more difficult.

Right now less

than a hundred thousand people live in Greenland because most of the country is

snow and ice, permafrost. But if our earth grows much warmer, less hospitable

areas of the world like Greenland could become more populated as cities facing

massive water intrusion relocate residents.

How many people

might be homeless if the global situation becomes dire? How many will be

unemployed? With advancements in automation, how many will be unable to find


In the coming

decades, what will the world look like? Where will we live? What will we eat?

Will people be different than they are today?

Medical experts

have cited an increase in births of intersex babies. Human sexuality is

changing, becoming more fluid and less defined. In the future, as the global

population advances to 10 billion, such developments could be seen as

adaptation, a desirable evolutionary change.

What about

sexual (and racial and ethnic) equality? What about pollution? What kind of

technological changes will there be in 30, 40, 50 years?

Now imagine

that you are a young person living in the year 2066.

And now, meet



Once I finish

my schoolwork, I have nothing to do until dinner. Everyone else at my house is

working. When I remove my headgear, I can hear them. Talking, talking, talking.

The sound is a deep, bone-rattling drone, interrupted by occasional bursts of

laughter or yelling.
So annoying.

My family is in

the call center business. This means they don't do anything; instead,

they talk for a living. Talk, talk, talk. And the work is international. This

means they talk all day long and right through the night. You would think they

would want some peace and quiet when they're not working, but this is not the

case. Even off-duty, my family is always talking. Always gossiping and

laughing, shouting and arguing, blathering on and on.

I'm the

youngest and there are a lot of them and only one of me, so I rarely get to

speak. Not that I want to yack all the time. I prefer quiet. A serene, calm,

peaceful quiet. So I've had to adapt. Most of the time I tune them out.

But sometimes I

can't block out the noise. That's when I sneak out. I wish I could do

something, like hit the streets and explore, but this is not allowed. They think

I'm still too young to be out alone where there's poverty and crime. So

instead, I go up to the roof. It's not much and there's nothing to do, but it

is quiet up there.

I'm going to

head up there right now.

First I put on

my niece Kamara's soft blubber boots and my dad's dog-fur coat. I slide thick

white Dura-Soy socks onto my hands to keep them warm. Nobody at my house owns

gloves. My mother says there's no need to go outside in the bad weather. We

have everything we need right here, in our home.

I'm not so sure

this is true for me. Being stuck inside, studying and hanging out all day, is

so boring. Only when I'm reading or researching or doing interesting schoolwork

am I content. When my mind is engaged, it goes elsewhere. Zoom! But escape is

only temporarily. I always come back here, to a crowded apartment in a crowded

building in a crowded city.

I want to go

new places. I want to do amazing things.

Right now,

however, I have to complete high school. I'm a year ahead, a junior at sixteen.

I like being challenged, but digiworld education is pretty easy. However, I

love environmental history class and nature science. I love looking at how the

world around us used to be, the early people and their simple lives, the wild

animals and their natural homes. Everything was so different back then. Nothing

looks like it did in back in 2000, 2025, even as recently as 2050. There's been

so much rapid environmental change and so many social adjustments, it's a whole

new world.

I glide through

the living room without disturbing anyone. They rarely notice me anyway, tucked

in their tiny cubicles, encapsulated in their surround-sound head screens. I

don't walk past my parents, though. Those two have eyes in the back of their

heads and they could snatch me by the hoodie and hold me here. Maybe even

assign some useless chores. Or, even worse, try to make me do some call work.
No thanks.

But I'm

invisible, so out the door I slip and up the stairwell I go. Up, up, up,

jogging two stairs at a time, eventually slowing to a brisk step-up walk. My

breath comes out in frosty spurts. The stairway is cement and holds the winter


It's a good run

up the stairs to the top, so I use it as exercise. I want to be fit and strong

so I can go on adventures. Explore other parts of Greenland, then explore the

rest of the world. But I'm sort of huffing as I power up the flights. Sitting

inside all day is not good training.

At the

ninety-ninth floor, I stop for a moment to admire my lucky talisman. An

abandoned spider web, which has been here as long as I've been coming up from

the second floor. Dusty and wispy, it hangs in the corner off the rough gray

wall. The web is perfect, an incredible design still intact. I wish a spider

lived in it. I would love to see a real live insect, observe one in its natural


I remove the

sock from my hand and reach up, gently feeling the soft silk. Impressive how a

female spider can create such gossamer material inside her own body. I'm not

sure what I will create inside mine because I am intersex. That means I am part

male and part female. I may have eggs, I may not. Whatever is in store for me,

I will never be able to weave beautiful webs, that is certain.

I drag myself

up the final flight and lean against the door to the roof. The heavy steel is

especially difficult to push open today, which indicates it's extra windy

outside. I shove the door with all my strength and, with an aggressive grunt,

manage to open it wide enough that I can slide through. I'm small and thin,

making it easy for me to fit into some of the places I wish to go. Only I want

to go everywhere. Travel the world. Visit the moon. Take up residence at one of

the space hotels, and jump on the shuttle to Mars.

Yet here I am,

stuck in the sad city of Shamed with my loud telemarketing family.

The wind is

biting, it chews at my face and neck. I pull up my hood, feeling sorry I didn't

borrow my niece Kamara's seal headdress. That kooky thing makes me look like I

have a pile of blubber on my head, but it keeps my ears warm.

I hurry across

the vast expanse of the empty roof to my spot. A small bench sits between the

solar heating units. The afternoon sun is still bright and, tucked here out of

the wind, I am soon warm and cozy.

I drop the hood

and turn my face to the sun. Winter all over the globe is mild and brief these

days, but here in Greenland it used to be brutal. Back then, nobody could sit

outside in March, their face to the winter sun.

Warmed enough

now, I pull out my dad's World War Three binoculars and stare at the activity

on the streets below. Most working people are inside, at home, probably on

their headgear. Those hanging around outside are homeless. Too many Shamed

residents are unemployed, and lots of families lose their apartments and end up

on the streets. My family is lucky to be employed.

Two raggedy men

sit side by side on the icy sidewalk, waiting for donations. I watch an elderly

man stop to give them something, but I can't tell what it is. It's flat, kind

of square, so it looks like an old book. But books are exceedingly rare, so I

doubt anyone here would donate one. After the guy shuffles off, the two beggars

argue over the donation. I watch them fighting over their prize until I'm


The streets are

harsh today. Gusts of cold wind rip off seal hats and shake solar lamp posts.

Kids dressed in layers of oversized clothing huddle in doorways. I feel sorry

for them. If you have no place to live and no screens, you have nothing to do.

You can't even go to school.

I check the

sky, looking for birds. But I don't see any. Usually I don't. There are so few

trees in the city that birds are as rare as books.

As I scan the

neighboring buildings, I peek in the uncurtained windows. I'm imagining what

the residents' lives are like in the apartments that surround ours. Sometimes I

can see people moving around their rooms, and I create stories about them in my

mind. The women care for others like my mother does. The men have interesting

work that keeps them from being bored with the limits of city life.

Two kids who

look around my age live in the building just south of ours. A girl and a boy, I

think. It's hard to tell because so many kids are intersex. They might be

twins, they sure look a lot alike except one has like an afro and the other has

long straighter hair. They study and eat together, often huddling to talk. They

nudge each other, make funny faces, laugh. Watching them makes me feel both

happy and sad. I wish I had someone like that in my life. My siblings are much

older than I am. Even my two nieces are in their twenties. My mother told me my

birth was a bit of a surprise. Had to be, she was over eighty when I was born.

My parents have great-grandkids who are around my age. So my grandnieces and

grandnephews are teenagers too.



There's no sign

of the twins today, and nothing much to see in the other windows. The frosty

wind whistles in the distance as I look across a seemingly endless vista of

rooftops. Rooftop after rooftop, stark gray and lifeless. No people, no

furnishings, no swimming pools or pretty tile patios like in the historic

photos of old city buildings in places like New York and Miami, Paris and

Shanghai. Here in Shamed, the city skyline looks like an empty parking lot,

just gravel and asphalt that stretches as far as you can see. In the early part

of the millennium, lots of cities had restaurants and observation decks on

building rooftops. How cosmic that must have been! Dining close to the stars!

Looking out at the brilliant blue sky, the green vista below with flowering

trees and pretty parks. Birds flying by, settling in the treetops. And singing!

When my parents

were kids, they lived in an alive world. Such a different world than mine. I

feel ripped off. Still staring though my spy glasses, I sigh heavily.


grumpy, are we?"

I jump off the

bench, my binoculars bouncing against my chest, then whacking my chin. I can

feel my heart racing faster than it did when I jogged up the stairs. I've never

seen anyone out here on the roof. Nobody comes up here but me.

An old man with

reddish gray hair stands a few feet away, his arms outstretched. A smirk

escapes from beneath his bushy beard. After a few seconds of us just staring at

one another, a large blue-gray pigeon suddenly appears and lands on his right


I startle and

step back, but he grins. "Wait. There's more," he says.

Another pigeon,

a pudgy brown one this time, lands on his left shoulder. He rolls his eyes and

that makes me laugh. I can't help it, he looks crazy!


he says, his grin widening when a white dove plops down on the crown of his

head. "That's better."


Virginia Aronson, RD, MS, is the author of more than forty books. She
is the Director of Food and Nutrition Resources Foundation, a
non-profit corporation that supports individuals, organizations, and
communities actively seeking to improve access to healthy food,
nutrition education, sustainable and regenerative agriculture, and a
socially just food system. She is the author of two books of ecofiction:
A Garden on Top of the World (Dixi Books, 2019) and Mottainai: A Journey in Search of the Zero Waste Life.

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