American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fabiola struggles with a mix of feelings. Kasim makes her feel like honey, while thinking of Manman’s absence makes her feel empty. She misses the sun in Port-au-Prince, but she’s hopeful that Manman will be here soon to warm her up. One morning, Fabiola can almost feel Manman’s warmth as the sun rises. She lies that her belly hurts so that she can stay home from school. Once her cousins leave, Fabiola makes herself tea and wonders what Manman and Matant Jo would be doing if Manman were here now. Back upstairs, Fabiola screams into Chantal’s pillows. She’s almost asleep when she hears Papa Legba singing outside. Fabiola rushes outside to listen. Papa Legba looks different than he usually does when he’s out at night, but Fabiola can’t pinpoint what’s changed.
Even though Fabiola has had some happy moments with Kasim and her cousins, she still feels unmoored and traumatized without Manman here. She feels as though her loyalty to Manman is being tested as she immerses herself in her new life. But when Papa Legba starts singing, Fabiola sees an opportunity to make sense of this dissonance. She can listen to his song and read the clues hidden in his appearance—and hopefully, this will help her understand how to achieve the best of both worlds.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Fabiola asks Papa Legba for “the word,” and he sings a rhyme for her. On the last line, his cigar lights up, the streetlights buzz, and thunder booms. Fabiola looks down—she remembers this sound from when she was little, when the earthquake almost split her home in half. She wonders if this street corner is going to collapse under all of Fabiola’s troubles. Fabiola remembers how Manman always says it’s impossible to get anything for free; sacrifices are necessary. Fabiola knows what she has to do. Papa Legba is gone, but Fabiola commits the last word of each of his lines to memory. The first two words are “street” and “block,” so Fabiola heads for the block that Uncle Q owns. She’s certain she’ll find Dray and the underworld when she gets where she’s going.
The Haitian earthquake would’ve been a defining event in Fabiola’s childhood. So, whenever something happens that reminds her of that traumatic experience, she’ll naturally think about it. But in Fabiola’s mind, the earthquake is more than just a natural disaster. Rather, it symbolizes all the problems in her life. But because Papa Legba seems to be united with (if not in control of) the thunder, Fabiola doesn’t fear it too much. Rather, she takes it as a sign and sets out to figure out what it means.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
At the end of the street, Fabiola sees Papa Legba. When Fabiola crosses the street to join him, he’s gone. She walks down American Street in the rain, noticing the empty houses and lots. As a car passes Fabiola, she catches sight of Papa Legba again in front of a house—but the house doesn’t seem meaningful, so Fabiola keeps walking. When Papa Legba doesn’t appear again, she figures it’s time to figure out where Dray is without his help. Finally, she reaches the Q club. When she pulls the door, dogs bark. Fabiola sees Dray standing nearby, holding the leashes of two angry dogs. He asks why she’s here, just as Fabiola notices a fat man standing near the entrance. She says, “Q,” and regrets it immediately. She tries to act normal and asks if Q is the name of the club.
Papa Legba’s abrupt appearances and disappearances add credence to Fabiola’s assessment that Bad Leg is indeed Papa Legba. Within the world of the novel, Vodou spirits are alive and well—and they can guide Fabiola toward her goal. Meanwhile, the fact that Fabiola is going after Dray indicates that she’s decided to cooperate with Detective Stevens and see what she can find about Dray’s drug-dealing. But the angry dogs make it clear that tracking down Dray isn’t going to be easy, and it might be downright dangerous.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Dray tells Fabiola to come inside with him. He hands the dogs to the fat man, and Fabiola knows that this is Papa Legba’s doing. The club is dark. Fabiola awkwardly says that her mom is in a detention center, and that she wants to throw a party here when Manman is released. Dray laughs and says that Uncle Q threw Matant Jo a birthday party here once. Then, he tells Fabiola that if she and Kasim are serious, Fabiola will meet Uncle Q soon—and Fabiola and Kasim can have what he and Donna have. Fabiola notes that Dray hurts Donna, but Dray snaps that Donna hurts him too. Then, Dray warns Fabiola not to snoop and grabs a gun out of a drawer. He calls for Fabiola to approach, but she can’t. Someone calls Dray from outside, so Dray tells Fabiola to stay put, and he leaves.
Because Fabiola believes that Papa Legba is guiding her through this, the experience isn’t as frightening as it might be otherwise. Knowing that Papa Legba is in control—and that Dray is also just a lwa, Baron Samedi—makes Fabiola feel safe and as though she can change the situation through prayer. However, the fact that Dray seems to suspect Fabiola of snooping doesn’t bode well for Fabiola, especially since he has access to a gun. Dray clearly isn’t afraid to be violent and defend himself if he thinks it’s necessary—even if Fabiola is Donna’s cousin.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
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The door doesn’t latch behind Dray, so Fabiola runs through it and all the way home. On the steps of the house, she calls Detective Stevens. In a rush, Fabiola says that her uncle Phillip “went down” for Dray’s Uncle Q, and that there are bad things happening in the club. Detective Stevens is concerned for Fabiola but says that she knows about the club. She warns Fabiola to be careful and then says that if Fabiola is free tomorrow, she can arrange a call with Manman.
It seems like a bit of a shock for Fabiola to learn that Detective Stevens already knows about the club; this suggests that Detective Stevens might be withholding information that Fabiola needs to effectively be of help. But offering Fabiola a phone conversation with Manman keeps Fabiola invested anyway.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon