American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Now that Fabiola has new hair and clothes, she doesn’t look like a recent Haitian immigrant. This is especially true tonight, as she sits in a gym for a school basketball game. She sits between Imani and another friend, ogling the players. Pri and Donna sit down in front of Fabiola, and Donna whips her braids back to hit Imani’s knees. Fabiola shoves Donna’s head and makes her apologize, but Donna whips her hair again. Then, Fabiola notices the girl next to Pri. Pri turns around and introduces Fabiola to Taj; the girls look happy together. Fabiola wonders how Pri can have such good taste, when Donna’s taste in men is so poor.
Even though Donna has been leaving Imani alone, this doesn’t mean she’s done picking on her. Donna might feel as though she has to continually remind Imani of who’s in charge in order to maintain her hold over Dray. For Fabiola, it’s shocking—in a good way—to see that Pri has such good taste in romantic partners. Clearly, there’s some hope for her family members if Pri can make good choices like this.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola spots Kasim far below them and waves. He makes his way up, and Fabiola realizes too late that Dray is with him. Kasim squeezes in next to Fabiola, but Dray tries to get Donna’s attention. She ignores him as he gets down on one knee and pulls out a tiny box. He says that he loves her and opens it to reveal a diamond pendant. Fabiola almost believes that Dray is telling the truth as she watches his one good eye fill with tears. Donna seems to believe it too, since she tries to take the box. Dray, however, gets distracted trying to find the person who’s upset that they can’t see the game around Dray’s head. Donna tells him that that he’s disrespecting her by trying to start something. Then, Pri stands up, grabs Donna, and threatens to cut her off if she goes back to Dray.
Dray’s offering to Donna is clearly manipulative. Giving her such a gift in public, in front of so many people, means that if she says no, she’s going to cause a scene. And given how mean and manipulative Dray is, he’d probably insist that the scene was Donna’s fault. In this way, he ensures that she’s going to take him back. This, combined with Donna’s genuine feelings for Dray, means that she’s caught in a cycle of violence that keeps her in danger.
Themes
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Donna, however, insists that she’s fine and turns back to Dray. Fabiola tries to stop Donna from leaving with him, but she doesn’t know what to say. She wonders if Dray really is sorry and does love Donna, but she knows this is a lie. Pri looks at Fabiola and shakes her head. Kasim tells Fabiola to not worry about Donna and Dray. He insists that Dray does love Donna—but he and Fabiola won’t love each other like that. He kisses Fabiola deeply.
Kasim’s acceptance of Dray’s behavior is still concerning. It may indicate that he understands that violence is just a part of life in Detroit. However, this is complicated by the fact that he believes he and Fabiola can have a healthy, nonviolent relationship. Clearly, it’s possible; Dray’s violence is a choice.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Donna isn’t home yet, so Fabiola dozes. She hears Bad Leg singing a song he first sang months ago, before Fabiola knew he was Papa Legba. Eventually, Fabiola snaps awake when she hears a man yelling at Bad Leg to shut up. It’s Dray: he’s shoving Bad Leg while Donna stands by, crying. Fabiola races downstairs and steps outside, but when Dray accuses Bad Leg of working with the cops, she can’t move. She wants to help Bad Leg, but she doesn’t want Dray to see her. Fortunately, Dray gets in his car when Donna calls to him. He zooms away, while Donna follows Fabiola inside. She grudgingly reveals her scratched, bruised, and bleeding face to Fabiola.
Dray may say he’s changed, but his actions suggest that he hasn’t—and probably never will. But this doesn’t mean that Fabiola won’t try to help Donna and get her to safety. Donna is possibly more in need of help than Bad Leg is, since Bad Leg is actually the Vodou spirit Papa Legba.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
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Fabiola hugs Donna and says that she has the battle wounds of Ezili-Danto—but Fabiola will fight this battle for Donna. Fabiola knows that her cousins and Matant Jo are hurting. She can’t understand how this place is supposed to be so good when there’s not enough happiness to fill the empty houses. Instead, sadness inevitably overtakes joy. Matant Jo always ends up back in her dark room, while Chantal can barely pay for school. Donna doesn’t know the difference between love and abuse, while Pri fights everything. Dray and Uncle Q are in the middle of all of this. Fabiola feels her rage rising and vows to cut Dray out of Donna’s life.
Donna’s wounds are yet another indication that the American Dream doesn’t exist here in Detroit. Even if Donna and her sisters make enough money selling for Uncle Q to get by, that doesn’t save her from Dray’s abuse—and it doesn’t save Matant Jo from her hopelessness and pain. All of this makes Fabiola feel ready to lash out in order to protect her family, an emotion born out of Fabiola’s fierce loyalty to them.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
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