American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Donna attempts to put a wig on Fabiola in preparation for her date with Kasim. Fabiola pulls away and wonders whether Manman would approve of Kasim or her outfit. Just then, her phone buzzes: it’s Detective Stevens, promising to call tomorrow at 3:00. Fabiola tries to forget about the detective. As Donna makes another attempt with the wig, Chantal pulls up a YouTube hair tutorial and does Fabiola’s hair. When they’re done, Fabiola feels like Ezili, the lwa of beauty. Donna insists that Fabiola looks like Rosa Parks and storms out when Fabiola refuses makeup too. Pri cackles. Fabiola adds lip gloss and pulls on one of Manman’s dresses, but she changes into jeans and a sweatshirt when Pri says that she looks like a church lady.
Donna has a very specific idea of what makes a woman beautiful; her comment about Fabiola looking like Rosa Parks is intended as an insult. But the fact remains that Fabiola feels beautiful with Chantal’s hairdo, and that’s what matters. The mood still remains lighthearted, which suggests that even if Fabiola rejects Donna’s beautifying attempts, their relationship is still improving.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Dressed like this, Fabiola feels less Haitian and less like an immigrant. Chantal asks where they’re going. Fabiola doesn’t know, so Chantal tells her to make Kasim bring her back if he’s going to take her to his house. Pri tells Fabiola to practice the phrase, “Take me the fuck home!” Fabiola knows that Pri just wants to make fun of her accent, but she repeats the phrase anyway. Chantal and Pri howl with laughter.
Fabiola’s tone suggests that she thinks it’s good to look less Haitian. Looking like an American, she implies, will make it seem like she belongs—something that would presumably make Manman proud. Fabiola also repeats Pri’s phrase to feel like she belongs, even if she knows she’s the butt of the joke.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Related Quotes
When the doorbell rings, Fabiola sees Dray’s car outside—Dray let Kasim borrow it. Fabiola doesn’t want to get in and looks for Bad Leg, but the old man is nowhere to be found. She calls to Donna and asks if she can sit in the passenger seat before sliding in. Then, Kasim gets in and explains that he had the car detailed to make it smell and feel different. He turns on jazzy hip-hop and says that they’re listening to J Dilla, a Detroit legend. He turns on Big Sean next, and Fabiola recognizes the song. As Kasim turns the corner, Fabiola sees Papa Legba staring right into the car. The bass suddenly sounds like the signal for danger. But when Kasim reaches for Fabiola’s hand, she feels calm and settled.
For Fabiola, Dray’s car represents everything that’s wrong with Detroit, while Kasim’s broken-down car presents a hopeful, honest picture of the city. But borrowing the car shows that Kasim understands the importance of dreaming and striving for better. He has the opportunity to put together an evening that will make Fabiola feel appreciated, fancy, and expensive—in other words, like she’s achieved the American Dream.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Downtown, they get in line at the Detroit Opera House—they’re going to see Alvin Ailey dance. Fabiola is speechless. She’s never seen dancers like the people on the posters, and she’s never seen an audience made up of so many Black people. As Kasim puts an arm around Fabiola, she realizes that she’s underdressed. Kasim tells her she looks fine and pulls her close, giving Fabiola the opportunity to sniff his sweet cologne. A minute later, when he hands over the tickets, Fabiola sees that they each cost over $100. The performance is like nothing Fabiola has ever seen. She wants to wrap up her memories of the performance and give them to Manman
The dance performance is both affirming and anxiety-inducing. Even as Fabiola feels more at home in this crowd of beautiful Black people, she nevertheless feels like she doesn’t fit in as well as she should. This drives home that she’s still figuring out how to fit in here. When she mentions wanting to share this experience with Manman, Fabiola also reminds the reader of her true goal: to get Manman back. This suggests that her relationship with Kasim is secondary to this goal.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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Afterwards, Fabiola asks how much the tickets cost. She tells Kasim that he should be spending money on his car and his mother, not her. He sighs and says that he got the tickets from his Uncle Q, who is Dray’s uncle. In a lot of ways, though, Uncle Q is everyone’s uncle—he owns the Q club and practically owns the entire block it’s on. Fabiola says that she had an uncle too, and she’s shocked when Kasim says he knows all about “Haitian Phil.” He says that Pri talks about Phillip all the time and makes sure that everyone knows that her father “went down for Q.” Seeing Fabiola’s surprise, Kasim advises her to stay out of this matter. Meanwhile, Fabiola feels like Papa Legba is drawing her in as he works to get Manman to this side. Kasim kisses Fabiola, and the city looks uncharacteristically beautiful.
Kasim’s information about Uncle Q and Phillip further clues Fabiola in to how life in Detroit works. The very fact that Phillip “went down for Q” suggests that Phillip may have been involved in illicit activity, given the implication that Uncle Q deals in drugs. This complicates Fabiola’s understanding of her uncle, who she’s thought of as honest and upstanding up until this point. It’s telling, then, that Fabiola and Kasim’s kiss makes the city look beautiful. Love and companionship, the novel suggests, can be an antidote to the desperation and violence of the city.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon