American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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Donna/Primadonna François Character Analysis

Donna is one of Fabiola’s cousins; she’s Matant Jo and Phillip’s daughter, Pri’s twin, and Chantal’s younger sister. Like Fabiola, Donna and Pri are 16 years old. Whereas Pri is short and stout, Donna is tall and willowy. She loves clothes, hairstyling, and makeup, so she constantly dresses up and gets her hair done. At first, Fabiola finds all of this tiring and silly. Since Fabiola isn’t interested in Donna’s highly stylized look, Fabiola finds it hard to understand why it’s so meaningful to Donna. But as the novel progresses, Fabiola realizes that Donna has good reason to lean so hard into beauty. Since she was 12, Donna has been dating Dray—and the entire time they’ve been dating, Dray has physically abused her. The hair and makeup serve a dual purpose: Dray likes girls who wear wigs and heavy makeup, and Donna can also use beauty products to cover her bruises and scratches. However, Donna still thinks of her relationship with Dray as a positive thing in her life. She consistently makes excuses for his abuse and insists that he loves her, so she’s willing to put up with it. This infuriates Donna’s family, but they still put up with Dray’s presence. Fabiola channels her hatred of Dray into introducing Donna to elements of Vodou. She sees in Donna an iteration of Ezili, the lwa (Vodou spirit) of women—and when Donna comes home with bruises, Fabiola suggests that Donna is Ezili-Danto, a version of Ezili who seeks vengeance for women. Seeing Donna as an iteration of Ezili also helps Fabiola appreciate Donna’s love of everything feminine. Though Donna is distraught when Papa Legba shoots and kills Dray, the novel nevertheless implies that his death is a good thing for Donna. She’ll no longer have to suffer his abuse, and though it will take time for her to heal emotionally, she’ll have her family there to support her.

Donna/Primadonna François Quotes in American Street

The American Street quotes below are all either spoken by Donna/Primadonna François or refer to Donna/Primadonna 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.
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:
Chapter 9 Quotes

I look all around the restaurant. “But this is your job,” I say.

She inhales and looks around, too. “Yes, it is. But our work is not without the help of good American citizens like yourself. You are an American citizen, right?”

Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

Then I begin to see him for who he really is. Dray, with his sunglasses even as night spreads across the sky, and his gold cross gleaming, and his love/hate for my cousin, reminds me of the lwa Baron Samedi, guardian of the cemetery—keeper of death.

Page Number: 132
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 17 Quotes

This is a makeshift altar for Ezili with all the things she loves in the world. My whole body tingles when I realize what’s happening.

Again, Papa Legba has opened another door. How could I have missed this? Of course, I need Ezili’s help, too. And she’d been right under my nose, working through Donna with all her talk about hair, jewelry, clothes, and beauty.

Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

How is this the good life, when even the air in this place threatens to wrap its fingers around my throat? In Haiti, with all its problems, there was always a friend or a neighbor to share in the misery. And then, after our troubles were tallied up like those points at the basketball game, we would celebrate being alive.

But here, there isn’t even a slice of happiness big enough to fill up all these empty houses, and broken buildings, and wide roads that lead to nowhere and everywhere.

Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 32 Quotes

We are all in white. Even Pri has shed her dark clothes and now wears a white turtleneck and pants. I had wrapped my cousins and aunt in white sheets after making a healing bath of herbs and Florida water for each one, and let them curl into themselves and cry and cry. This is what Manman had done for our neighbors who survived the big earthquake. The bath is like a baptism, and if black is the color of mourning, then white is the color of rebirth and new beginnings.

Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:
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American Street PDF

Donna/Primadonna François Character Timeline in American Street

The timeline below shows where the character Donna/Primadonna 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
...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 babies. A girl... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...Chantal asks where Manman is, but Fabiola can only shake her head. Fabiola realizes that Primadonna is only so tall because she’s wearing fancy high heels. She introduces herself as Donna,... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Chantal, Pri, and Donna step aside to speak in fast English. After a minute, Chantal takes Fabiola’s hand and... (full context)
Chapter 3
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
...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 backseat next to... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...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 her back... (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... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...twins’ room, and the bathroom. Chantal warns Fabiola to be smart about the bathroom, since Donna takes forever with her “fake face and her fake hair.” (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...smile, Chantal leads Fabiola to her bedroom, which is warm, neat, and filled with books. Donna appears in the doorway, dressed to go out. Chantal begs for Donna to not go... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...car, calls the punching man Dray, and helps Bad Leg up. At the same time, Donna gets out of the car, obviously drunk. Fabiola tries to make herself invisible as Donna... (full context)
Chapter 4
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...Legba is the lwa of the crossroads who can help Manman “come to this side,” Donna barges into the room in her pushup bra and asks for a pair of tights.... (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 fine. Through gritted... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...khakis and an oversized white button up. She asks Fabiola to braid her hair as Donna walks by in full makeup. When Fabiola asks if Donna is going out later, Pri... (full context)
Princess’s Story
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Princess says that Matant Jo gave her and Primadonna their names because she figured that being Americans with a house and an employed father... (full context)
Chapter 5
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...royalty. 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... (full context)
Chapter 6
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...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 hour after school.... (full context)
Chapter 7
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Donna bursts in with a basket of hair supplies. She gets to work on doing Fabiola’s... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...truly evil. When he shakes Fabiola’s hand, it feels like “shards of glass.” Dray pulls Donna and the other boy close, as though he owns them. (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Donna introduces Fabiola to the other boy, who intentionally mishears Fabiola’s name and calls her Fabulous.... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Kasim explains that everyone calls the couple D&D, like Dungeons and Dragons—Donna is the dragon, and Dray is taming her. Kasim says that he and Fabiola won’t... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...her coat to her and leads her outside. There, Pri is yelling at Dray while Donna crouches on the ground. Everyone stares as Pri shouts that Donna should’ve left Dray a... (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... (full context)
Chapter 9
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...by their shoes. Fabiola turns to walk away, but the woman asks if Fabiola is Donna’s cousin. She says that she knows Pri, Chantal, and Matant Jo, and that she knows... (full context)
Chapter 10
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...question either. After a minute, he says that you don’t ask that of people around here—Donna didn’t ask Dray that when they met. Fabiola points out that Kasim isn’t Dray and... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Kasim insists that Dray and Donna do their own thing. He also explains that Dray is like family to him. Fabiola... (full context)
Chapter 11
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Pri warns Fabiola to not have sex with Kasim too fast, while Donna yells from the bathroom that Pri should worry about her own romantic troubles. Fabiola giggles... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Donna comes in and asks if Fabiola is a virgin. Fabiola is. The twins then give... (full context)
Chapter 12
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...cute, but he always checks out other girls and brings friends to hook up with Donna’s friends. When Fabiola asks if Kasim was one of those friends, Imani says that Kasim... (full context)
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...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— but Detective Stevens... (full context)
Chapter 13
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...when she hears her cousins shouting for a “bitch” to get out of the car. Donna reaches in to rip Imani out and accuses her of trying to steal Dray. She... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola tries to defend Imani to Donna, which makes Dray tell Kasim to control his girlfriend. Chantal gently asks Imani where she... (full context)
Primadonna’s Story
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Donna says that she and Dray have been together since she was 12. Even at times... (full context)
Chapter 14
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Donna attempts to put a wig on Fabiola in preparation for her date with Kasim. Fabiola... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...for Bad Leg, but the old man is nowhere to be found. She calls to Donna and asks if she can sit in the passenger seat before sliding in. Then, Kasim... (full context)
Chapter 15
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...serious, Fabiola will meet Uncle Q soon—and Fabiola and Kasim can have what he and Donna have. Fabiola notes that Dray hurts Donna, but Dray snaps that Donna hurts him too.... (full context)
Chapter 17
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...and asks what Fabiola “put out” to see Alvin Ailey, thrusting her hips. Just then, Donna appears and asks if Imani wants to have sex with Dray. Imani looks away as... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Donna says that Imani needs to understand that she has no chance with Dray. A lot... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...pulls up in front of a house, where a group of girls are standing outside. Donna tells Fabiola to get out; they’re getting their hair and nails done for Dray’s birthday... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...a costume that will help her hand Dray over to Detective Stevens. Outside the car, Donna greets a tall woman with a booming voice named Miss Sandra, while another smaller, muscular... (full context)
Chapter 18
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
When Ms. Unique drops Fabiola and Donna off at the house, Donna shouts that she won. Matant Jo is with her male... (full context)
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...man from Q’s appears and whispers something in Dray’s ear. Dray’s demeanor changes. He hands Donna his keys and phone and excuses himself. Donna drags Fabiola to the bathroom and says... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...feel in love with Kasim, but Ezili-Danto makes her want to kill Dray to free Donna and Manman. (full context)
Chapter 19
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Dray is so angry that the house seems to shake. He’s downstairs, shouting for Donna—earlier, Donna cursed him out for cheating and getting caught by police. Matant Jo tries to... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Under the door, Fabiola sees Pri’s socks and Matant Jo’s slippers converge around Donna to protect her, and Matant Jo shouts for Dray to get out. Dray goes back... (full context)
Chapter 20
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...by Fabiola’s weight loss. She refuses to come over and try Haitian food, even though Donna has stopped bothering her. Fabiola tells Imani that she has her back, but her accent... (full context)
Chapter 21
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...the window to look out, Chantal whispers for Fabiola to get down. Chantal, Pri, and Donna are all up; they tell Fabiola to stay upstairs while they answer the door. Fabiola... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...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 are gone,... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...figures that if Bad Leg is Papa Legba, and Dray is Baron Samedi; and if Donna is Ezili and Ezili-Danto, then Chantal and Pri can also be lwas. They’re all here... (full context)
Chapter 22
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 23
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 24
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Donna, however, insists that she’s fine and turns back to Dray. Fabiola tries to stop Donna... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience 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... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola hugs Donna and says that she has the battle wounds of Ezili-Danto—but Fabiola will fight this battle... (full context)
Chapter 25
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...at the basketball game. She figured he’d leave her alone after he got back with Donna, but he’s still texting her. Imani snaps that she doesn’t need help, but Fabiola promises... (full context)
Chapter 26
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola’s entire body hurts. She can’t follow anything that Pri and Donna say, but she does hear Ms. Stanley say that Matant Jo will have to come... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...this school anymore. She wants to use the money to help Manman and her cousins. Donna eyes Fabiola in her mirror, but no one says anything. Chantal asks if Donna is... (full context)
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...pulls out a joint. Fabiola tells him that it’s his business what he does with Donna, but he has to leave Imani alone. Dray argues, but he gives in when Fabiola... (full context)
Chapter 27
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...go to the party—according to Papa Legba, something bad is going to happen. Chantal calls Donna’s cellphone, and the twins appear to hear Fabiola’s news. Then, Pri gets up, looks out... (full context)
Chapter 29
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Donna accuses Fabiola of selling out Dray to get Manman. Fabiola feels awful; she betrayed Donna... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 30
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...and Pri curses. When they reach the house, 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... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...tells her to get inside, and shouts at Dray to talk to her, Pri, and Donna—not Fabiola. Dray flashes a gun, but Fabiola darts past him and into the house. She... (full context)
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...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 Donna warns... (full context)
Drayton’s Story
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
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...anyone what he did, and he doesn’t hate Uncle Q or himself. Instead, Dray hates Donna because she’s Phillip’s daughter. Phillip is a ghost who constantly torments Dray. Now, there’s nothing... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...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. The girls all try... (full context)
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...Inside, Matant Jo wails. She breaks down and sobs on Pri’s shoulder as Chantal and Donna join her. Then, Donna extends an arm for Fabiola. The family spends a few more... (full context)