American Street

American Street


Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chantal’s Story Summary & Analysis

Chantal wonders if memory is like a muscle. In her anatomy and physiology class, she learns how the body works but not how the mind works. Chantal remembers how, when she was nine, she had to translate newspaper articles about Phillip’s murder for Matant Jo. Later, when detectives came to the house, Chantal had to translate their words into Creole for Matant Jo and translate Matant Jo’s Creole into English for the detectives. Chantal feels like Haiti and Creole are stuck inside of her, like muscles. America is her skin. According to Chantal’s papers, she’s not supposed to be here, since she’s a “resident alien” and not a citizen. The government doesn’t care that she’s human. Chantal tries to walk a path between school and the streets. Matant Jo wanted Chantal to go to a fancy university, but Chantal couldn’t leave. This is home, and Fabiola reminds her of Haiti.
Here, Chantal reveals that she was forced to grow up far too early when Phillip was murdered. Because she was bilingual, it fell to her to translate what were surely gruesome, heartbreaking details of her father’s death—even though she was just a child. Chantal also implies that even though she’s spent a majority of her life in Detroit, she’s still figuring out how to relate to her Haitian identity. This is complicated by her immigration status, but her situation nevertheless makes the case that immigrants must constantly negotiate their identities.
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Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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