American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Chantal warns Fabiola not to be pathetic and follow Kasim. Fabiola giggles and invites Chantal to have some of the pizza that Kasim is bringing over. Chantal refuses. Finally, Fabiola asks Chantal why she doesn’t have a boyfriend. Chantal says that she’s not interested and that she hopes that Fabiola never feels ugly, like she does. Fabiola says that Chantal can be ugly if she wants; in Haiti, they say, “We are ugly, but we are here.” This resonates with Chantal. Then, Fabiola calls Donna to help her cut out her fake hair. When Donna is done, Fabiola texts Kasim asking what time he’ll arrive and gets in the shower. Fabiola’s body feels new, and she uses Donna’s fancy soaps. As she pins her hair up in a pun, she thinks her that face looks wiser after her fight.
Having sex and feeling close with Kasim makes Fabiola more hopeful about the future—especially since she believes that Dray is also going to be out of her life soon. The proverb she gives Chantal suggests that it’s enough to be alive—it’s not necessary to strive for more than that. Though it’s unclear why Chantal feels so ugly and powerless, it may be empowering to hear that someone respects her for simply getting through the day. It helps her feel dignified and worthy.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
By 8:00 p.m., Kasim still hasn’t texted back. Fabiola takes Chantal’s advice and doesn’t text again. Instead, she puts on sweats and one of Donna’s sweaters, which reveals one of her shoulders. She hopes Kasim will kiss it. At 9:00, Fabiola texts Kasim and sends him a sad face. Feeling pathetic, she invites him to a party at her house and includes a smiley face. Then, she tries to read one of Chantal’s books. At 10:00, Kasim texts that he’s not coming—he has business to handle. Fabiola wonders what he’s doing. The only thing that’s supposed to happen tonight is Dray selling drugs at the party, and Fabiola can’t shake this thought.
It’s understandably disturbing for Fabiola when she realizes that Kasim is cancelling on her on the same night that Dray is supposed to get caught. She knows how loyal Kasim is to Dray, so she probably suspects that Dray is involving Kasim in his deal tonight. Worrying about this makes it so Fabiola can’t get in the mood and enjoy her night in any longer. Her loyalty to Kasim means that she needs to figure out if he’s okay.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Fabiola runs downstairs, throws on a coat, and races to the corner and Bad Leg. He’s all dressed up and wearing sunglasses, just like Dray. Fabiola asks if everything went as planned, and Bad Leg sings her a song about Cupid’s arrows aiming for the heart but everything getting torn apart. Fabiola begins to shake as her cousins ask what’s going on. She ignores them and tries to call Kasim, but he doesn’t answer. Then, Fabiola asks Donna to call Dray—she needs to know if he’s at the party in Grosse Pointe. Chantal and Pri ask what’s going on and why Dray would be at the party. Trembling, Chantal asks what Fabiola did.
It’s significant that it’s Bad Leg who tells Fabiola that things are going to go badly—since he’s actually Papa Legba, it’s essentially Vodou itself that’s teaching Fabiola that she can’t control everything. In this sense, Fabiola learns that her spirituality has limits; it won’t give her control over everything. Indeed, it may teach her that there are consequences for trying to send Dray to jail when he’s not actually guilty.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Fabiola keeps her head pressed on the dashboard as she tells her cousins everything. Pri wants to punch Fabiola but doesn’t. Quietly, Donna says that she’s going to call Dray—she doesn’t want him to get arrested. Chantal notes that Dray isn’t stupid and won’t go to Grosse Pointe. Pri yells that Kasim will be the one selling—Fabiola’s stupidity will get Kasim arrested. Fabiola tries to remember Papa Legba’s song, but it all sounds crazy to her now. This is how she felt during the earthquake: people screamed for help from God, but the destruction kept going. Fabiola isn’t even sure if God or the lwas can hear her now. Suddenly, Fabiola has an idea and asks for Chantal’s phone so she can call Detective Stevens. Detective Stevens won’t arrest Kasim, since she wants Dray.
It’s a mark of Fabiola’s maturity, humility, and trust in her cousins that she tells them what happened. Being honest with them means that she had to admit she made a mistake and then ask for help fixing it. While this represents a leap in maturity, her desire to call Detective Stevens suggests that Fabiola still naïvely trusts the adults around her to behave honorably and have control of the situation. Previously, Chantal said that the police would be at the party; that may mean Detective Stevens will be there, but it may also mean that lots of other cops will be looking for any young Black man with drugs.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
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Donna accuses Fabiola of selling out Dray to get Manman. Fabiola feels awful; she betrayed Donna too. Chantal snaps that Fabiola can’t talk to Detective Stevens. She can’t talk to cops or lawyers—it’s the code out here. Fabiola shrinks into her seat and wonders where Papa Legba is taking her. She remembers what Chantal said: Kasim will be the one to get arrested. The only way the detective will get Dray is if Kasim snitches.
Fabiola’s plan failed because she didn’t know enough about how dealing works to be able to effectively trap Dray. This suggests that, in addition to spirituality, a person needs an understanding of the real world to make their prayers work.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
The houses here are big, and Fabiola thinks that this is where dreams come true. Eventually, the girls see lights from police cars and ambulances on the street of the party. Pri insists they can’t get closer, but Chantal suggests they wait and take Kasim home with them. Chantal stops Fabiola from leaving the car and Donna tries to call Dray. Pri snaps that they can’t call Dray; he’ll find out that Fabiola set Kasim up and that they secretly went to Uncle Q. Tired of listening to them argue, Fabiola gets out and walks toward the party. Chantal joins her, takes her arm, and says that they’ll act like normal partygoers.
Finally, Fabiola is in the neighborhood where she expected to live in Detroit. These big houses probably look more like the sparkling mansions she saw on TV; in her mind, these houses are the living embodiment of the American Dream. Because the girls are trying to keep so many secrets, they don’t have as many people to ask for help. In this instance, family might not be enough to save them.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Fabiola wants to apologize and ask why Chantal is selling drugs when she’s so smart. But they get closer to the lights and see people everywhere. An officer approaches the girls, tells them they can’t come to the party, and asks Chantal for ID. Chantal explains that they walked over from a few streets away, and she offers the officer her high school ID, which doesn’t have an address on it. After inspecting it, the officer sends the girls away. Chantal tries to leave, but something tugs Fabiola toward the party. She breaks away and races toward the sirens. Fabiola sees Detective Stevens staring at her disbelievingly. Behind the detective, police officers are unraveling yellow ribbon that reads “CAUTION.” Fabiola remembers Papa Legba’s warning to “Beware the lady all dressed in brown.”
Now that Fabiola is here, things look increasingly sinister. It’s important to note that Detective Stevens wears a brown coat, so it’s possible that she’s the “lady dressed all in brown” that Papa Legba warned Fabiola about. Meanwhile, Chantal went to a “fancy” high school, so her high school ID might buy her more sympathy from the police—especially since they can’t tell where she lives by looking at the ID. In this way, Chantal shows that she’s moving between worlds too, as she goes from American Street to parties in fancier neighborhoods like this.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Fabiola runs again until she comes upon a body under a white sheet. It’s just like after the earthquake, but this time, there’s only one body instead of thousands. The body belongs to Kasim. Fabiola falls to the ground, remembers that Kasim’s name means “divided amongst many,” and feels like she’s been split in half. She wails as Detective Stevens picks her up and tells her to go. Chantal appears and can barely get herself and Fabiola back to the car. In the car, Chantal whispers that the police shot Kasim. Fabiola screams. She feels like Kasim is the earthquake—he shattered her heart.
While the major earthquake that struck Haiti affected thousands of people, Kasim’s death affects Fabiola most of all. Equating him to the earthquake allows Fabiola to make sense of this new trauma. She survived the earthquake, and she can survive this too—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t devastating. Fabiola has lost one of the people she loves most. Now, happiness and the American Dream seem even more out of reach.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon