American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Outside the airport in Detroit, the air is cold and biting. Even though Manman says that the cold is good for their skin, Fabiola still feels like she’ll freeze. Fabiola struggles to pick out her cousins in the sea of faces that are both Black and white. She wonders how she’ll recognize her cousins Chantal, Princess, and Primadonna, since they haven’t seen each other since Fabiola, Princess, and Primadonna were babies. A girl who barely looks like a girl steps in front of Fabiola to compare Fabiola’s face to a photo on her phone—this girl is Princess. She brushes off Fabiola’s attempted hug and kiss and waves over her sisters. Chantal, who’s almost 20, is smaller than Princess. Primadonna follows behind. She’s tall, with long hair and sunglasses even though it’s nighttime.
The vast differences between Chantal, Princess, and Primadonna show Fabiola that in the United States, people can choose to look and act in any number of ways. Meanwhile, Princess brushing off Fabiola’s hug is no doubt hurtful, or at least confusing for Fabiola. It implies that Fabiola won’t be welcomed into her cousins’ circle as easily as she may have expected.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Fabiola reaches out to hug Chantal, her favorite cousin. Chantal asks where Manman is, but Fabiola can only shake her head. Fabiola realizes that Primadonna is only so tall because she’s wearing fancy high heels. She introduces herself as Donna, while Princess insists on being called Pri. Pri and Donna are twins—and exact opposites. While Pri is short and stocky, Donna is tall and willowy. Chantal leads everyone to a desk and asks an airport employee about Manman. The employee prints out a piece of paper and gives it to Chantal, and Chantal uses the information on it to lookup Manman up on her phone. She tells Fabiola that Manman will be sent to a detention center in New Jersey—and then back to Haiti. Fabiola suggests that they can go to New Jersey and get Manman, but Chantal says gently that it probably doesn’t work that way.
Coming from a country as small as Haiti, Fabiola clearly has no understanding of how big the United States is—it’s more than 600 miles, a 10-hour drive, from Detroit to New Jersey. Clearly, Fabiola has unrealistic expectations about life in the United States to being easy and straightforward. Chantal does her best to break it to Fabiola gently that, in reality, things here are anything but simple. This also implies that anything Fabiola does going forward might not be as easy as she expects it to be.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Chantal, Pri, and Donna step aside to speak in fast English. After a minute, Chantal takes Fabiola’s hand and says it’s time to go home. Fabiola doesn’t move. She remembers all those times when Manman left her in the market. Manman always came back. Chantal says that Matant Jo is going to handle things, and she wraps a scarf around Fabiola’s shoulders. Fabiola suddenly feels suddenly like a part of something bigger. In Haiti, it was just her and Manman; now, she has cousins and an aunt to take care of her. Fabiola is certain that they can get Manman back, but she feels like she’s leaving her heart at the airport.
In some ways, Fabiola feels like Manman abandoned her—but here in the airport, Fabiola feels like she’s the one abandoning Manman if she goes home with her cousins. Chantal’s kindness in giving Fabiola the scarf, however, helps Fabiola feel like she should trust her cousins and aunt to help her. She believes that, if she relies on family, they’ll be able to work together to make things right.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon