American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Pri warns Fabiola to not have sex with Kasim too fast, while Donna yells from the bathroom that Pri should worry about her own romantic troubles. Fabiola giggles and asks if Pri is in love. Donna yells that Pri is, and when Pri won’t say what the girl’s name is, Donna shouts that her name is Taj. Chantal rushes upstairs. Pri shares that Kasim took Fabiola out to dinner, so Chantal cautions Fabiola to say no if Kasim asks her to marry him. She explains that Kasim always wants to marry his girlfriends. Chantal then hands Fabiola a small box, and Fabiola can’t hide her smile. The thought of getting married is nice. Fabiola opens the fox to find a phone inside. Pri quips that now, Fabiola can text Kasim their wedding plans.
Talking about romance is one way that Fabiola and her cousins strengthen their relationships with each other. It gives them a way to laugh, give each other advice, and support each other’s happiness. So even as Fabiola’s cousins seem apprehensive when it comes to Kasim, Fabiola having this conversation with her cousins is still a positive thing. Receiving a phone also gives Fabiola more independence as she embarks on her new life. Now, she can text Kasim—and, if she chooses, Detective Stevens.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Donna comes in and asks if Fabiola is a virgin. Fabiola is. The twins then give Chantal a hard time about wanting to have sex with a book instead of a person, and they start a pillow fight. Fabiola feels happy and lets her thoughts wander to Kasim. Donna tells Fabiola that Kasim is sweet—if he loves her, she says, he’ll make Fabiola feel like a million dollars. Fabiola wonders if Dray loves Donna, or if she just feels loved because he spends so much money on her. She asks if Donna loves Dray. Though Donna says she does, the joking stops.
It’s probably simple for Donna to say that she loves Dray. She  does seem to genuinely care for him, but this is complicated by the fact that he abuses her. It’s heartbreaking to see Donna in this situation, but it shows Fabiola that life in Detroit isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Just because her cousins have big dreams doesn’t mean that those dreams are going to come true.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola stays up late, listening to Bad Leg sing and replaying the day’s events in her head. Finally, she gets up to pray and goes down to the corner of American Street and Joy Road. She asks Papa Legba what she should do. He doesn’t answer for a minute but then, he sings about crossroads, bearing a cross, and hoping not to die. A cigar appears in Papa Legba’s hand and the smoke drifts to the street signs of Joy Road and American Street. Fabiola looks down Joy Road, which has few streetlights and lots of open lots. It could mean lots of possibilities or empty hope. American Street has rows of houses, and the empty lots look like missing teeth. People in Haiti would thank Jesus for a street like this.
As Fabiola looks down American Street and Joy Road, she uses her Vodou spirituality to make sense of what she sees. For her, this isn’t just a crossroads—this is a symbolic place that offers her two versions of her future. Furthermore, Fabiola comes to this crossroads as a Haitian person who knows just how much people back home would give up to live on streets like American Street or Joy Road. But the description of the empty houses looking like “missing teeth” connotes loss and perhaps even violence, suggesting that this neighborhood may be more sinister than Fabiola realizes.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola thinks that she has to choose a path. One street represents the future, and Papa Legba will help her choose. Fabiola says that on American Street, she’ll live with her family, date Kasim, and stay quiet. On Joy Road, she’ll tell the truth and become happy, since she’ll get Manman back. She asks which road to take, but when she looks back to Papa Legba, he’s gone.
Even if Papa Legba is a spirit guide, that doesn’t mean he’s going to give Fabiola clear answers. Rather, it’s up to Fabiola to interpret signs and occurrences—and through that, to make her own decisions.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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When Fabiola crawls back into bed, she lies that she was downstairs eating. Chantal says that Fabiola is going to be killed on the streets, but Fabiola insists that she feels safe in Detroit. This makes Chantal laugh; she asks Fabiola if she’s seen people stomped in the face, if she’s had to dodge bullets, and if she knows what a dead body smells like. Fabiola quietly shares her stories of experiencing police brutality and the earthquake back in Haiti. Chantal says that Fabiola wins, but Fabiola says Chantal won—Chantal is home, while Fabiola left her home behind. Chantal admits that sometimes, she wonders what life would’ve been like if Matant Jo had stayed in Haiti. Maybe, she and Fabiola would’ve grown up like sisters and shopped for American clothes together. Fabiola laughs—they’d have to bus to the Dominican Republic to shop.
Chantal tries to impress upon Fabiola that even American Street and Joy Road aren’t all that they seem—they’re dangerous, and hanging out in that area them could get Fabiola killed. What ensues is an argument about who’s experienced the most trauma and who lived in the more dangerous place. While Fabiola may make the case that Haiti was more dangerous than Detroit is, the fact remains that she still thinks of Haiti as home. It’s surprising to hear that Chantal thinks Haiti is home, too. She longs to connect with her Haitian roots, but she has an idealized vision of what life in Haiti is like.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Chantal asks about what Fabiola used to post on Facebook, but Fabiola says that she and her friends didn’t do much in the city. She had to fight often, since people knew Matant Jo was sending money. Manman decided to leave because she was tired of fighting, and because she wanted Fabiola to be like Chantal. Fabiola asks if it’s true that Chantal is going to be a doctor. Chantal sighs and tells Fabiola to get through school, to stop messing with Bad Leg, and to not ask about the dead white girl.
Just as Fabiola had an incorrect idea of what the U.S. was like based on her cousins’ social media posts, Chantal doesn’t understand what life in Haiti is like because of what Fabiola put on Facebook. Facebook allows people to curate what their lives look like, thereby presenting a version of themselves that seems great—no matter where they live.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon