American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on American Street can help.

American Street: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fabiola thinks of all the food she misses. She knows she’s losing weight, but she’s not “a pretty kind of skinny.” However, Fabiola knows that this won’t last forever. She thinks of her weight loss as the drought before the rain—the rain being Dray’s arrest by Detective Stevens. Imani, however, is concerned by Fabiola’s weight loss. She refuses to come over and try Haitian food, even though Donna has stopped bothering her. Fabiola tells Imani that she has her back, but her accent makes Imani almost choke laughing. Fabiola refuses to say it again as Imani tells her friends that Fabiola is now the Fourth Bee. Fabiola loudly says she’s not the Fourth Bee. Imani’s friends laugh and ask her to teach them Haitian curses. Fabiola is thrilled; not even her cousins have asked to learn Haitian curses.
The conversation Fabiola has with Imani and her friends helps her feel more welcome. Finally, someone is interested in Haitian culture and language—and, for once, Fabiola can be the expert instead of the student. Fabiola mentions that her cousins haven’t asked to learn Haitian curses, which suggests that Fabiola believes her cousins don’t know them. However, she seems to forget that Chantal grew up speaking Creole—the girls may very well know the curses.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Fabiola’s belly hurts from laughing when, out of the blue, a girl comes up and asks if Fabiola is Fabulous, Pri’s cousin. Fabiola says that she is, and the girl introduces herself as Tonesha and says her cousin Raquel “already claimed Kasim.” Fabiola shouts for Tonesha to stay away from her boyfriend, eliciting oohs from the entire cafeteria. Tonesha and Fabiola stare each other down until the bell rings. Pri comes up to Fabiola and says that she’ll beat up Tonesha if she says anything to Fabiola again.
The fact that Fabiola is willing to shout down Tonesha shows that she now accepts that shouting, fighting, and bullying are necessary if one wants to make it in Detroit. Pri, though, makes it clear that Fabiola won’t have to do it alone.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Kasim picks Fabiola up in his old car that afternoon. Fabiola gets in slowly, so that Tonesha sees her. Fabiola and Kasim kiss, and Pri pounds on the hood as she passes. Fabiola tells Kasim about her altercation with Tonesha and says that she had to “protect” Kasim. He rolls down his windows to shout that Fabiola is his girl. Laughing, he asks Fabiola what her last name is. Fabiola says that her name is Fabiola Toussaint, not Fabulous François, like her cousins. She tells him that he can’t change her name and asks if he’s Broke Carter and has Dray’s last name. Immediately, she knows she messed up—she shouldn’t know Dray’s last name. But Kasim seems unconcerned and mimes giving Fabiola his heart. Outside the house, Fabiola asks if they can do this again every day. She sees Papa Legba and thinks that he approves.
It’s a relief when Kasim shows up in his own car, as this lets Fabiola know that Kasim isn’t going to imitate Dray to try to impress her. Kasim also openly shouts that he and Fabiola are together, a public display of affection that lets Fabiola know she’s right to trust him. Fabiola and Kasim have essentially become each other’s chosen family. Furthermore, Fabiola feels even more reassured when she sees Papa Legba. It’s worth noting, however, that there’s no evidence to suggest that he approves—it could be an incorrect interpretation.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon