American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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Chantal is Fabiola’s cousin; she’s Matant Jo and Phillip’s oldest child and Pri and Donna’s sister. While Fabiola describes Chantal as petite and pretty, Chantal doesn’t agree—she feels ugly and ungainly. Of the three siblings, Chantal is the smart, bookish one. She was a stellar high school student and attended a fancy prep school on a scholarship, which gave Matant Jo hope that Chantal would be able to also attend a university on a scholarship. However, because Chantal is close with her family—and because, as a resident alien, she doesn’t quality for financial aid—she chooses to stay home and attend community college. She feels it’s her responsibility to take care of Matant Jo, Pri, and Donna after Matant Jo has a stroke. Fabiola finds Chantal sensible and levelheaded, so she tries to emulate Chantal when it comes to academics. As Chantal and Fabiola grow closer, Chantal reveals that she still feels very Haitian, despite having spent most of her life in Detroit. She’s studying to become a doctor, and she uses the anatomical metaphor that Haiti is her bones and muscles, while America is her skin. Because of her immigration status, Chantal often wonders if life would have been better had she grown up in Haiti, surrounded by family and Haitian culture. Chantal is the first of Fabiola’s cousins to decide that Fabiola deserves to know the truth about the family’s history. She tells Fabiola about Matant Jo’s job as a loan shark, and she encourages Fabiola to understand that everyone needs money to survive—this is why Chantal, Pri, and Donna now sell drugs. It’s silly, Chantal suggests, to look down on people for making money any specific way when money is a necessity. In this sense, Chantal becomes one of Fabiola’s most important mentors, as she introduces Fabiola to uncomfortable truths about life in Detroit and what success in the city can look like.

Chantal François Quotes in American Street

The American Street quotes below are all either spoken by Chantal François or refer to Chantal François. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Balzer + Bray edition of American Street published in 2017.
Chapter 3 Quotes

The living room of this house, my new home, is a sea of beige leather. The furniture crowds the small space as if every inch of it is meant for sitting. I’ve seen bigger salons in the mansions atop the hills of Petionville, even fancier furniture and wider flat-screen TVs. But none of that belonged to me and my mother; none of the owners were family. Here, I can sit on the leather couches for as long as I want and watch all the movies in the world as if I’m in the cinema.

Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Princess’s Story Quotes

Ma named us Primadonna and Princess ‘cause she thought being born in America to a father with a good-paying job at a car factory and a house and a bright future meant that we would be royalty. But when our father got killed, that’s when shit fell apart.

Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

She stares at the magic things for a while without touching them before she asks, “Does it work?”

“Well,” I say. “Has anyone ever tried to kill you?” I have to speak loudly over the music.

Pri turns around and closes the bedroom door, muting the music a bit.

“Kill me? Ain’t nobody rolling up in this house to kill anyone.”

“I know. We made it so. Me and my mother. Every day we asked the lwas to protect our family in Detroit and their house,” I say, adjusting my bra.

Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
Chantal’s Story Quotes

Creole and Haiti stick to my insides like glue—it’s like my bones and muscles. But America is my skin, my eyes, and my breath. According to my papers, I’m not even supposed to be here. I’m not a citizen. I’m a “resident alien.” The borders don’t care if we’re all human and my heart pumps blood the same as everyone else’s.

Related Characters: Chantal François (speaker), Fabiola Toussaint, Matant Jo François
Page Number: 116-17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

But I don’t want to look like a church lady. I still want to look...good. So I take off my mother’s church dress and put on a plain sweatshirt that belongs to Chantal and a pair of new jeans. I wear the Air Jordans that Pri picked out for me, but I keep my hairstyle. Now I don’t look so...Haitian. So immigrant.

Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

“Catholic school for all three of us out here was just pennies. But your ass over there in Haiti cost her like twenty Gs every year. Your school, money for your mom, your clothes. Hell, all this time, Ma thought y’all were building a mansion near the beach and she swore she’d go back down there to retire.

“But she’s getting sick. We don’t want her to do this loan-sharking shit anymore. Money was running out. We still gotta live, Fab. We still gotta breathe. Money’s just room to breathe, that’s all.”

Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 29 Quotes

I want to say sorry to Chantal. I want to ask her why, with all that money, they never bought a house here. I want to ask her why, with all her brains, is she selling drugs.

Related Characters: Fabiola Toussaint (speaker), Chantal François, Kasim
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire American Street LitChart as a printable PDF.
American Street PDF

Chantal François Character Timeline in American Street

The timeline below shows where the character Chantal François appears in American Street. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...of faces that are both Black and white. She wonders how she’ll recognize her cousins Chantal, Princess, and Primadonna, since they haven’t seen each other since Fabiola, Princess, and Primadonna were... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Fabiola reaches out to hug Chantal, her favorite cousin. Chantal asks where Manman is, but Fabiola can only shake her head.... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Chantal, Pri, and Donna step aside to speak in fast English. After a minute, Chantal takes... (full context)
Chapter 3
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
...saw on TV will sparkle in the dark, but the car is moving too fast. Chantal drives, while Donna admires herself in the rearview mirror from the passenger seat. In the... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...her arms and then asks where Manman is. Fabiola replies that they’re detaining Manman, while Chantal and Donna ask why the government would send Manman to New Jersey just to send... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Jo shouldn’t be so hard on Fabiola, since she now has a “good girl” again. (Chantal was the golden child, but Matant Jo is disappointed that Chantal is attending community college... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Matant Jo leads Fabiola into the kitchen while Pri, Donna, and Chantal turn on the TV in the living room. Fabiola loves that her family owns such... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...which Fabiola eats on the way upstairs, is disgusting. At the top of the stairs, Chantal points to the room that she and Fabiola will share, the twins’ room, and the... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Chantal asks if Fabiola used an indoor or outdoor bathroom in Haiti. Embarrassed, Fabiola says that... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...that they have to go back to Haiti, since Detroit is no better. Back in Chantal’s bedroom, Fabiola moves some books aside so she can set up a shrine. She pulls... (full context)
Chapter 4
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The next morning, Chantal asks why Fabiola spun around with the mug last night. Fabiola explains that she was... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Chantal asks where Donna’s new underwear came from, but Donna just says that everything will be... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...asks if Donna is going out later, Pri explains that Donna “dresses like a ho.” Chantal announces that they have 10 minutes before it’s time to leave. Fabiola only remembers seeing... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...conversations she and Pri used to have, but Pri just says that they’re adults now. Chantal suddenly turns up the TV. All three cousins gather around as a news anchor reads... (full context)
Chapter 5
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
As Chantal drives Fabiola up to her new school, she points out that it looks like a... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Fabiola turns to Chantal, who explains that Matant Jo works hard to take care of everyone—she’s a bank. Seeing... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...In a low voice, Imani explains that Pri will fight anyone who messes with Donna. Chantal uses the connections from her rich high school to help people. Everyone thinks they do... (full context)
Matant Jo’s Story
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
...Phillip thought he was buying “American Joy.” Phillip then sent for Matant Jo and baby Chantal. At that time, Phillip was everything to Matant Jo, since there’s no real Haitian community... (full context)
Chapter 6
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...so she carries it in her purse. It makes her feel more American. On Friday, Chantal, Pri, and Donna have errands to run, so they ask Fabiola to wait for an... (full context)
Chapter 7
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...fake hair, fake eyelashes, and perfect eyebrows. Pri and Matant Jo applaud the transformation, but Chantal shakes her head. Fabiola wonders if putting a picture of herself looking like this on... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...is still wearing her coat because she’s self-conscious about her short dress. She wishes that Chantal were here. Fabiola watches Pri dance in the middle of a circle, and when Fabiola... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...but Pri refuses. Donna asks to go with Dray and falls into the front seat. Chantal pulls up and acts like this has happened before. Kasim offers to ride with Dray,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Once Donna is tucked into bed, Fabiola and Pri play cards while Chantal reads. Fabiola asks if Dray hits Donna—after all, Bad Leg’s song was about an attack.... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...and make a deal. He warns listeners to “Beware the lady all dressed in brown.” Chantal tells Fabiola not to listen. When Papa Legba stops singing, Fabiola runs to the window... (full context)
Chapter 9
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
The next Friday, Fabiola packs a small bag for Manman. She tells Chantal it’s been too long and asks how to get to New Jersey. With a sigh,... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...but the woman asks if Fabiola is Donna’s cousin. She says that she knows Pri, Chantal, and Matant Jo, and that she knows Phillip was killed. Fabiola decides to trust the... (full context)
Chapter 11
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Pri won’t say what the girl’s name is, Donna shouts that her name is Taj. Chantal rushes upstairs. Pri shares that Kasim took Fabiola out to dinner, so Chantal cautions Fabiola... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...comes in and asks if Fabiola is a virgin. Fabiola is. The twins then give Chantal a hard time about wanting to have sex with a book instead of a person,... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
When Fabiola crawls back into bed, she lies that she was downstairs eating. Chantal says that Fabiola is going to be killed on the streets, but Fabiola insists that... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Chantal asks about what Fabiola used to post on Facebook, but Fabiola says that she and... (full context)
Chantal’s Story
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Chantal wonders if memory is like a muscle. In her anatomy and physiology class, she learns... (full context)
Chapter 12
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...the card on the table, Fabiola is certain that Detective Stevens knows where she lives. Chantal, Pri, and Donna certainly won’t want to talk to Detective Stevens, since they know Dray—... (full context)
Chapter 13
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...tries to defend Imani to Donna, which makes Dray tell Kasim to control his girlfriend. Chantal gently asks Imani where she lives. In a rush, Imani gives Chantal her address and... (full context)
Chapter 14
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Fabiola tries to forget about the detective. As Donna makes another attempt with the wig, Chantal pulls up a YouTube hair tutorial and does Fabiola’s hair. When they’re done, Fabiola feels... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Dressed like this, Fabiola feels less Haitian and less like an immigrant. Chantal asks where they’re going. Fabiola doesn’t know, so Chantal tells her to make Kasim bring... (full context)
Chapter 15
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Matant Jo would be doing if Manman were here now. Back upstairs, Fabiola screams into Chantal’s pillows. She’s almost asleep when she hears Papa Legba singing outside. Fabiola rushes outside to... (full context)
Chapter 17
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...Donna won’t do anything, but Imani insists that Fabiola’s cousins will hurt her anyway. Since Chantal is honking the horn for Fabiola, Fabiola lets Imani go and gets in the car.... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...Fabiola asks why Donna couldn’t just tell Imani this instead of bullying her. At this, Chantal snaps that being nice and showing weakness will give other girls the opportunity to bully... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Chantal pulls up in front of a house, where a group of girls are standing outside.... (full context)
Chapter 18
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...that she won. Matant Jo is with her male friends again and is unimpressed, but Chantal and Pri are shocked. Fabiola allows Donna to dress her in tight clothes and follows... (full context)
Chapter 19
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...tells him to get out, but Dray runs up the stairs. Through the gap under Chantal’s door, Fabiola watches Pri’s stocking feet approach Dray’s boots. Barefoot, Donna steps up to Dray... (full context)
Chapter 21
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...to pounding on the front door. When she goes to the window to look out, Chantal whispers for Fabiola to get down. Chantal, Pri, and Donna are all up; they tell... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Uncle Q says that he’s here to collect, but Chantal says they need more time—they tossed the last batch because it was messed up. Fabiola... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...month, taps Pri on the temple, and curses at her when she pushes him away. Chantal and Donna pull Pri back and wait for the men to leave. Once the men... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Chantal shushes the twins and points to the ceiling, but Pri leaps up and finds Fabiola... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola asks how her cousins expect to get the money. Chantal explains that Uncle Q was like a father to them after Phillip died. Pri snaps... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Chantal says that now, Matant Jo is sick, and they don’t want her to shark anymore—but... (full context)
Chapter 22
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 23
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty 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... (full context)
Chapter 24
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 26
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...She announces that Kasim isn’t cheating on Fabiola, and that Fabiola won the fight. Even Chantal seems to approve, and she admits that she was once suspended for fighting too. (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...refer to them now as “Ugly Bitch and Uglier Bitch.” When the cousins stop laughing, Chantal says that Matant Jo might make Fabiola do some chores. Chantal also says that she’ll... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
They stop at an abandoned building, but Chantal stares at Fabiola. She tells Fabiola that she’s the Fourth Bee now, teaches her how... (full context)
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
...against the other girls. The next day, the first day of Fabiola’s suspension, she asks Chantal to drop her off at Kasim’s job. At the café, Kasim brings Fabiola a croissant... (full context)
Chapter 27
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Later that night, Fabiola pretends to jerk awake from a bad dream. She whisper-yells to Chantal that they can’t go to the party—according to Papa Legba, something bad is going to... (full context)
Chapter 28
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...to his room, where they have sex and fall asleep. Fabiola only wakes up when Chantal calls. (full context)
Chapter 29
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Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Chantal warns Fabiola not to be pathetic and follow Kasim. Fabiola giggles and invites Chantal to... (full context)
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,... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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Identity and the Immigrant Experience 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... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
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Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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...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,... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...they see Dray sitting on the steps. Donna offers to go talk to him, but Chantal says he’s definitely not here to talk—he knows what happened, and they need a plan.... (full context)
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...grabs Fabiola by the hair and arms and drags her out of the room. Pri, Chantal, and Donna grab Fabiola and pull her back. Fabiola digs at Dray’s arms, even though... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...street corner. She wants to thank him, but all she can say is Kasim’s name. Chantal brings Fabiola back into the house. They stand with Pri and watch Donna cry over... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...and Ms. Stanley. She barely listens; everyone knows the story of the Four Bees now. Chantal is the brains, Donna is the beauty, Pri is the brawn, and Fabiola is brave.... (full context)
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Fabiola had to give a statement to the police, as did Chantal. Fabiola can’t write to Manman, as she can’t bear to write everything down. Instead, she... (full context)
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...Fabiola looks around. She catches sight of Bad Leg near the lamppost, but just then, Chantal calls for Fabiola. When Fabiola looks back toward Bad Leg, he’s gone. Inside, Matant Jo... (full context)
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As Chantal turns onto Joy Road, Fabiola sees Papa Legba leaning on the lamppost. He tips his... (full context)