American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the restaurant, Fabiola doesn’t like any of the food. Kasim asks her if people retire to Haiti when they’re old. Fabiola says that some do, but she doesn’t have enough money to do that. Manman wanted to retire in Detroit. Kasim says this is crazy, and he mentions that his dad is in Memphis, Tennessee. Fabiola barely listens. She notices that Kasim has good table manners and neat hands that look like he cares for them. In Haiti, it was easy to tell what a boy did by his hands, but it’s harder here—and Kasim’s hands don’t look like the hands of a café worker. Fabiola asks if Kasim reads books, which offends him. He notes that Fabiola has already asked if he’s broke, and now she wants to know if he’s literate. Kasim asks for the check, and Fabiola resolves to find out what makes Kasim sad and angry.
The idea that Manman wanted to retire in Detroit drives home how much Fabiola and Manman idealized living here. In their minds, the U.S. is a place to go to relax and enjoy life—while Haiti, though their home, is a place to work. Meanwhile, as Fabiola tries to learn more about Kasim, she unintentionally offends him. Asking if he reads books may reflect Fabiola’s incomplete grasp of English—she may actually be asking if he’s interested in education. This is important to her, as in her mind, education equals earning power.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kasim pays for the meal in cash and ignores Fabiola as they get back in his car. There, Fabiola puts a hand on his and says she meant to ask if he likes to read and likes school. She can tell that he doesn’t like this question either. After a minute, he says that you don’t ask that of people around here—Donna didn’t ask Dray that when they met. Fabiola points out that Kasim isn’t Dray and says that she understands. In Haiti, they call boys like Dray vagabon. Some of them probably like school, but they like the money they get from dealing drugs more. Kasim laughs and asks why Fabiola thinks Dray sells drugs. He also asks if she thinks he sells drugs. When Fabiola asks if he does, Kasim is even more offended. She says that she doesn’t like Dray, since he’s mean to Donna.
It’s telling that Kasim insists it’s inappropriate to ask people in Detroit if they like education. This suggests that an education might not get people very far, so for many, it’s not worth pursuing. Fabiola seems to understand this, to some degree, when she suggests that Dray probably earns more money dealing drugs than he would finishing school. But in Kasim’s mind, Fabiola’s questioning suggests that she’s out of touch and will never understand how things work around here. Her idealism may be understandable, but it’s not going to get her very far.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Kasim insists that Dray and Donna do their own thing. He also explains that Dray is like family to him. Fabiola asks if that means that Kasim is going to hit his girlfriend too. Kasim lists all the offensive things Fabiola has said tonight and laughs. Fabiola is happy, but she’s not sure if she can trust Kasim. Quietly, Kasim says that he’s nothing like Dray. He’s sold weed a few times to get money for his mom, but he’s not a kingpin. His relationship to dealing is “favors here and there,” and “shit you do for fam.” Fabiola shivers, since she can tell that Kasim would do anything for his family. In front of the house, Kasim kisses Fabiola.
Fabiola feels better about liking Kasim when she realizes how loyal he is to people he loves. Even if Dray is, unfortunately, one of those people, loyalty is nevertheless something that Fabiola value. When Fabiola and Kasim kiss, they take the first step toward becoming each other’s chosen family. This means that Fabiola’s sense of loyalty will begin to shift: she’ll be loyal to Kasim, not just her blood family.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
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