On My Bookshelf: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

October 26, 2020

In American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Fabiola is thrown into life in America without her mother. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
The basic plot from Amazon: In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodou culture.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

In American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Fabiola is thrown into life in America without her mother. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Why I liked it: In American Street
the narrator Fabiola is coming from Haiti with her mother, but her mother is detained. She joins her three cousins and aunt in Detroit alone. 

Fabiola's eldest cousin Chantal is in college and the most level-headed of the three girls. Donna is the “pretty girl” and dating Dray. Pri is Donna’s twin sister. She is a lesbian and fiercely loyal to her sisters. Fabiola starts school where her cousins have a reputation as the three B’s. 

It's not long before Fabiola is approached by a detective outside of school who suspects Donna’s boyfriend Dray is connected to a bad batch of drugs. Her efforts to help her mother spiral out of control when she finds out her cousins, not Dray were responsible for dealing the bad batch of drugs. Her Aunt Jo, who acts as a money lender in their neighborhood has recently had a stroke. The girls get into dealing drugs to get themselves out of finical trouble with Q. In the meantime, the narrator falls for Kasim, Dray’s best friend, and is devastated when he is killed by police at a party that she tipped the police off about. 

The narrative is interspersed with characters’ backstories. For example, it is revealed that the three B’s father was actually killed by Dray as a young boy when he was training under Q. His volatile relationship with Donna is largely due to his self-hatred over it. I liked the different voices of these backstories as well as the infusion of Haitian voodoo and magical realism.

Classroom application: American Street is appropriate for high school and up. The novel focuses on the American Dream and how elusive its attainment can be. It would make a great contrast to classic novels like The Great Gatsby, The Jungle, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and more contemporary books like The Last Shot by Darcy Frey.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of American Street for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

In American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Fabiola is thrown into life in America without her mother. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.



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