American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fabiola’s English teacher, Mr. Nolan, hands back her paper and explains that she got a low grade because she wrote a personal essay, not a research paper. Then, Mr. Nolan leaves instead of explaining what he means. Fabiola is shocked by her low grade, since she’s been writing in English for years. Clearly, Mr. Nolan thinks that everything she wrote about a Haitian revolutionary hero is wrong. Imani asks Fabiola what’s wrong, and Fabiola shares that she got a D. Imani offers to help, since she gets As on her papers. At first, Fabiola doesn’t want help, but she realizes that she needs to learn to game the system. Her cousins won’t be much help, since they don’t seem to ever have books—but Imani carries a heavy book bag, so Fabiola accepts her offer.
Both Fabiola and Matant Jo seem to have expected more from Fabiola’s English school in Haiti than what Fabiola got. Fabiola implies that she doesn’t understand the difference between a personal essay and a research paper, which indicates that she’s unprepared for school in the United States. Meanwhile, Imani’s offer of tutoring helps make Fabiola feel more welcome, and it gives her hope that she’ll be able to figure out how to navigate the U.S. school system. Furthermore, relying on Imani for help gives Fabiola a relationship outside of her cousins, further rooting her in her new community.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Fabiola is thankful for Imani; she believes Papa Legba has opened the door to friendship for her. Since Kasim has been asking Fabiola to visit him at work, she texts him for his café’s address. Fabiola and Imani take the bus, and Imani tells Fabiola to always sit near the bus driver. In Haiti, Manman always told Fabiola to sit in the back—it’s easier to jump out that way. Fabiola looks out the window until they get off. Imani has seen Kasim before with Dray. She says that everyone knows Dray, but he makes her uncomfortable. He’s cute, but he always checks out other girls and brings friends to hook up with Donna’s friends. When Fabiola asks if Kasim was one of those friends, Imani says that Kasim isn’t a “baller” and clearly doesn’t need Dray’s money.
Fabiola decides that Papa Legba has pushed her toward Imani; her spirituality seems to be the lens through which she looks at every part of her life. Imani also has useful information about Dray—and since Imani seems so sensible, Fabiola should put stock in Imani’s assessment. It’s comforting, then, when Imani offers a favorable assessment of Kasim. This makes Fabiola feel better about pursuing him, since her entire community—her friends and her family—support the relationship.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Kasim greets the girls as they take a table. Imani starts to talk about Fabiola’s essay, but Kasim is too distracting for Fabiola to pay attention. Finally, Imani kicks her. They laugh, which annoys a white couple next to them. Kasim brings the girls hot chocolate and touches Fabiola’s hand. Fabiola feels like air or like a bubble—and she feels as though she pops when she pulls out her wallet to pay and finds Detective Stevens’s card. Tapping the card on the table, Fabiola is certain that Detective Stevens knows where she lives. Chantal, Pri, and Donna certainly won’t want to talk to Detective Stevens, since they know Dray— but Detective Stevens must know that Fabiola doesn’t care about Dray at all. The detective also knows that Fabiola needs to get Manman back.
The aside about Imani and Fabiola’s laughter annoying the white couple illuminates how difficult life can be for racial minorities and immigrants. Noting the couple’s race implies that they’re particularly annoyed because the girls are Black, suggesting that racial minorities in the U.S. (particularly those who are also immigrants) are judged more harshly than white people might be. Meanwhile, it’s telling that even though Fabiola knows she’s being manipulated, she still considers Detective Stevens’s offer. Even though she knows that working with the detective could have negative consequences for her and her family, she feels that getting Manman back is her top priority.
Themes
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon