American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It’s Thanksgiving. Fabiola remembers how her aunt and cousins used to call her and Manman to wish them a happy Thanksgiving—but back then, she didn’t know what the holiday was. Matant Jo has been busy planning the meal with Fabiola; Chantal, Pri, and Donna make requests but don’t help. At first, Matant Jo seems competent and in control. But after a while, Matant Jo retires to her room with a headache, leaving Fabiola in charge. Fabiola isn’t familiar with a lot of the foods on the list and wonders what else Matant Jo was going to do with the turkey, which only has salt and pepper on it. She begins to cook. Fabiola decides to make soup joumou with the pumpkin, and she cuts the turkey into small pieces. Since Fabiola feels so at peace in the kitchen, she doesn’t let her cousins enter.
Thanksgiving is a classic American holiday, so Fabiola’s first Thanksgiving in the United States is almost a rite of passage. Putting her in charge of the meal, though, is a risky venture given that Fabiola isn’t familiar with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. And indeed, it’s immediately clear that Fabiola is going to put a Haitian spin on the meal by cutting up the turkey and making soup instead of pie with the pumpkin. 
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Finally, everyone stands around the table, holding hands. Both Pri and Matant Jo thank God for Fabiola’s presence, and Fabiola sobs. She cries in part because she knows that Matant Jo isn’t working to get Manman back at all, but Pri cracks a joke and makes Fabiola feel better. Then, Fabiola fetches her turkey from the oven, puts it on the table, and pulls the tinfoil off. Everyone else shrieks and explains to Fabiola that she wasn’t supposed to cut up the turkey. Fabiola is incredulous. Regardless, everyone enjoys the meal until there’s a knock at the door—it’s Kasim. Before Fabiola can fix her hair or put a bra on, he enters and offers Matant Jo flowers. Pri attempts to get Kasim to make fun of Fabiola’s turkey, but he shares that he once had jerk turkey with a Jamaican family.
The humorous turkey situation speaks to how an immigrant like Fabiola must constantly try to figure out how to navigate these American traditions. And it’s possible, Fabiola demonstrates, to engage in the traditions while also putting her own spin on it. Meanwhile, Kasim supports Fabiola’s merging of cultures when he mentions having jerk turkey at one point. He makes the points that all immigrants will tweak American traditions to make them more palatable—and rather than taking away from the traditions, this adds richness and variety.
Themes
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kasim explains that his family boycotts Thanksgiving as “the white man’s holiday.” Chantal suggests that January 1 is the Black man’s holiday—it’s the day that Haiti became the first independent Black nation. As Kasim chats about food and Dray’s family’s thanksgiving feast, Fabiola thinks that nothing has changed since she learned her cousins sell drugs. Kasim finally reaches over to make sure Fabiola is okay. After dinner, Kasim goes upstairs to use the bathroom, and Fabiola changes into something nicer. When they both emerge, Kasim catches sight of Fabiola’s altar. Fabiola explains that she practices Vodou, and that their lwas are like spirit guides. Kasim shares that he grew up Muslim and that his name means “divided amongst many” in Arabic. They both agree to pray for the other, and Kasim kisses Fabiola.
It’s telling that Fabiola and Kasim make up as they both open up about their spiritual beliefs. It’s important to Fabiola that she be in a relationship with someone who respects her beliefs and is spiritual as well—so it’s probably thrilling to hear that Kasim will pray for her and is happy that she’ll pray for him. This also makes Fabiola feel like her loyal to Kasim is the right decision, since they seem so compatible. Rekindling their relationship also gives Fabiola hope that she might still be able to make it in the U.S. Happiness could still be possible for her.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
In a letter to Manman, Fabiola wonders if Manman did this on purpose—did she know this was the only way to get Fabiola to America alone? But Fabiola notes that Manman raised her to be like an extension of herself, so Fabiola can’t go on without her. Fabiola writes that her cousins sell drugs and that Phillip died because of drugs. Manman would say that this sort of thing runs in the family—so what is Fabiola supposed to do to remove this curse? In closing, Fabiola says that the lwas are all around, helping her. Papa Legba will soon allow Manman through the gate.
Fabiola makes it clear that she and Manman are very close, and Manman is the one responsible for this state of affairs. But notably, Fabiola acknowledges that this might not be a good thing, as it prevents Fabiola from moving on—and from enjoying her relationship with Kasim. But again, as she turns to talking about the lwas, she draws on her spirituality to feel more in control of a difficult situation.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
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