American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fabiola’s head is itchy, but the fake hair sewn into her braids means she can’t scratch. This feels oppressive, especially since she allowed this makeover to get Dray—and Dray didn’t cause the girl’s death after all. Now, Fabiola is spending more time with her cousins. Chantal shows her how to fill out financial aid and scholarship forms, but Fabiola doesn’t trust the free money, and the forms that Manman filled out got her nowhere. One night, Fabiola hears Pri singing about Taj in the shower. When Fabiola asks how Pri will know if Taj feels the same, Pri says that she’ll never know. Fabiola also starts borrowing more of Donna’s clothes, which helps them bond. She ignores Kasim and accompanies her cousins everywhere.
Fabiola is overcome by the realization that she made a mistake in trusting Detective Stevens. Now, she knows that people in positions of power, who are meant to protect the public and uphold justice, aren’t always good at doing so. This represents a loss of innocence for Fabiola, as she no longer believes that she and Manman have a chance of making it in Detroit.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
One morning, Fabiola gets ready to join her cousins for chicken and waffles. Matant Jo comes out of her room and asks to join. In the packed car, Fabiola feels like this is family—but then she remembers that Manman isn’t here. This makes her think of Detective Stevens and her cousins’ drugs. At the restaurant, Chantal looks around nervously—Fabiola realizes that she’s afraid of Uncle Q. In the restaurant, Fabiola tries to focus on her waffles and ignore all the bad, scary things happening. She rejects a call from Detective Stevens and tells Pri that the number is Imani’s. Pri teases Fabiola about trying to distance herself from all the West Side drama and answers the phone when Detective Stevens calls back. Fortunately, when Pri hands the phone to Fabiola, the detective has already hung up.
Going out for brunch with everyone in the household makes Fabiola feel like a part of something bigger than herself. She feels safe and cared for—until she remembers that her cousins are dealers, and her aunt isn’t doing anything to rescue Manman. Family, Fabiola discovers, is more complicated than she expected it would be. Even these happy moments are tainted by the shady, illicit things Fabiola’s family members have done just to stay alive and get by in Detroit.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Matant Jo pays in cash and tries to give Fabiola the change. Fabiola refuses it, which offends Matant Jo. On their way out of the restaurant, Dray and Kasim arrive. Though Dray tries to talk to Donna, she ignores him while Pri, Chantal, and Matant Jo get in Dray’s face. Meanwhile, Kasim asks Fabiola if he can call later, but she says she’s too busy. Fabiola tells him that things are complicated and that she has to help Manman. She lies and says she doesn’t like him anymore. Back in the car, Fabiola feels like her heart is breaking—but she knows that Manman, not Kasim, will make her heart whole. On the drive home, Fabiola realizes that both she and Donna are breathing like they’re letting “go of something heavy and deep.”
Even if Fabiola thinks she’s taking the high ground by refusing Matant Jo’s money, it’s still offensive to refuse. The fact remains that Matant Jo has gone out of her way for years to support Fabiola and Manman in the exact same way she’s making money now—but now Fabiola feels like it’s morally wrong to accept. While Fabiola may be justified, her moral superiority suggests that she doesn’t actually grasp how hard it is for Matant Jo to make a living. Matant Jo is proud of what she’s done with nothing.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon