American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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Manman is Fabiola’s mother and Matant Jo’s younger sister. She never directly appears in the novel, because just before the story begins, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in New York detain her and refuse to let her enter the country. Later, Detective Stevens reveals that Manman was detained because she overstayed her visa the last time she was in the United States, at the time of Fabiola’s birth. After Fabiola’s birth in Detroit, Manman took baby Fabiola back to Haiti to raise her. Fabiola and Manman are extremely close, so Manman’s detainment is a devastating blow for Fabiola. Manman is a very strict mother, and Fabiola often hopes that the questionable or sexual behavior she sometimes engages in in Detroit will somehow make Manman angry enough to escape the detention facility. Manman was also a renowned mamboVodou priestess—in Haiti. She led Fabiola through daily prayers to the lwas (Vodou spirits) and taught her how to properly ask for help and interpret the lwas’ signs. Fabiola uses everything Manman taught her about Vodou and prayer to follow in her footsteps and become a budding mambo once she’s on her own in Detroit. Manman always tried to foster a close relationship with Fabiola, possibly because Manman didn’t have any other family around in Haiti. Their closeness is what leads Fabiola to agree to work with Detective Stevens, a local officer who’s investigating the drug-related death of a young woman. In exchange for Fabiola’s help, Detective Stevens promises to expedite Manman’s processing and get her a green card. Though this plan doesn’t go the way Fabiola thought it would, it pays off for Manman: she’ll be released from the detention facility into the U.S. on the evening the novel ends.

Manman/Valerie Toussaint Quotes in American Street

The American Street quotes below are all either spoken by Manman/Valerie Toussaint or refer to Manman/Valerie Toussaint. 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 1 Quotes

And then tomorrow, she will come to this side of the glass, where this good work that will make her hold her head up with dignity, where she will be proud to send me to school for free, and where we will build a good, brand-new life. Une belle vie, as she always promises, hoping that here she would be free to take her sister’s hand and touch the moon.

Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
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:

Cher Manman,

I see you clearer now because I light my candle and pour the libation, rattle the asson, and ring the bell to call all my guides, the lwas. You’ve told me that they are here for me. All I have to do is call on them so they can help me. I believe you, Manman. Even without you being here to hold ceremonies with drummers and singers and a village of followers, I will practice all that you’ve taught me.

Related Characters: Fabiola Toussaint (speaker), Manman/Valerie Toussaint
Page Number: 63
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 10 Quotes

“But I ain’t no kingpin, know what I’m saying? So it’s just favors here and there. Shit you do for fam.”

A cold chill travels up my spine. Shit you do for fam. The way he says it, it’s like he would do anything for his family, like for love and respect. I say it out loud. “Shit you do for fam.” I turn to him.

“Shit you do for fam,” he repeats.

Related Characters: Kasim (speaker), Fabiola Toussaint (speaker), Dray, Manman/Valerie Toussaint
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

“On American Street, I will live with my aunt Jo and my cousins, and go to school, and have a cute boyfriend, and keep my mouth shut because in Haiti I learned not to shake hands with the devil. But on Joy Road, I will tell the truth. The truth will lead to my happiness, and I will drive long and far without anything in my way, like the path to New Jersey, to my mother, to her freedom, to my joy. Which road should I take, Papa Legba?”

Page Number: 112
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 16 Quotes

“You did well in Haiti with my money. You think I was going to let my sister rot in the countryside with a new baby in her hands?”

“We prayed for you. When I was a young girl and I couldn’t even understand anything, I knew that it was my job to pray for my aunt and cousins because it was the only reason my papers said that I am American. We were grateful for that, not just for the money.”

Related Characters: Matant Jo François (speaker), Fabiola Toussaint (speaker), Manman/Valerie Toussaint
Page Number: 165
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:

I used to stare at that address whenever those white envelopes with the blue-and-red-striped edges would make their way to our little house in Port-au-Prince. I’d copy the address over and over again, 8800 American Street, because this house was my very first home. But for three short months only. This house is where I became American. This house is the one my mother and I prayed for every night, every morning, and during every ceremony: 8800 American Street.

Related Characters: Fabiola Toussaint (speaker), Manman/Valerie Toussaint
Page Number: 214
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

Manman/Valerie Toussaint Character Timeline in American Street

The timeline below shows where the character Manman/Valerie Toussaint appears in American Street. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola wishes she could break the glass that separates her from Manman. The people who “belong here in America” are on one side of the glass, while... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
In Detroit, Fabiola doesn’t have to prove she belongs. She looks around for Manman, but Manman doesn’t appear. Fabiola approaches a uniformed woman and says she’s looking for a... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...can’t figure out how to tell the woman that she won’t leave the terminal without Manman. She wants to say that Manman hasn’t seen her older sister, Matant Marjorie, since they... (full context)
Chapter 2
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Outside the airport in Detroit, the air is cold and biting. Even though Manman says that the cold is good for their skin, Fabiola still feels like she’ll freeze.... (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. Fabiola realizes that Primadonna is only so... (full context)
Chapter 3
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
...to feel it deep inside of her. It doesn’t distract Fabiola from her thoughts of Manman, however. Nevertheless, Fabiola tries to savor the experience of being in Detroit—she’s living the “good... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...front door of the white house on the corner opens. The face inside looks like Manman’s, but rounder—and this face doesn’t smile. Instead, half of Matant Jo’s face is frozen as... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...asks if she’s okay, Matant Jo says that she had a stroke. She knows that Manman would say that death owns half of her. She brushes off Fabiola’s concern and points... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...is supposed to treat family—no one has even offered her a glass of water. If Manman were here, she’d make a meal for everyone. Fabiola opens the fridge and freezer but... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Fabiola to not get involved with Donna, and Dray and assures Fabiola that they’ll get Manman soon. (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...she attended so many going-away parties. Fabiola gets up to light a candle to lead Manman back to her, but she has no matches. Downstairs in the kitchen, Fabiola pockets a... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...as Donna stumbles into the house and up the stairs. Disturbed, Fabiola wants to tell Manman that they have to go back to Haiti, since Detroit is no better. Back in... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
In a letter to Manman, Fabiola writes that this is her first night away from Manman. She writes that when... (full context)
Chapter 4
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...Fabiola tells her that Papa 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... (full context)
Chapter 5
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...things seem like they already crumbled. Fabiola knows that she can’t let anything happen without Manman here, so she knocks on Matant Jo’s door. Matant Jo lets Fabiola in, shuffles back... (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
...in the back of his head; the hole is like cancer. Matant Jo hoped that Manman would fill the hole, but maybe Fabiola and her cousins will fill it for a... (full context)
Chapter 7
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...in the living room. Fabiola is hungry, but she avoids going downstairs. She knows that Manman won’t believe that Fabiola has been hungrier in Detroit than she ever was in Port-au-Prince.... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...wonders if putting a picture of herself looking like this on the internet will make Manman show up just to smack her. Chantal drives everyone to the nightclub, but she doesn’t... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...of Kasim. When a slow song comes on, Fabiola’s heart beats fast—she feels as though Manman is watching her. She notices Pri staring from across the room, which makes Kasim laugh.... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
At home, Fabiola writes a letter Manman, telling her that she feels more connected to Manman now that she’s been calling on... (full context)
Chapter 8
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...that Bad Leg is actually the lwa Papa Legba. Fabiola asks why he didn’t let Manman through, but Bad Leg closes his eyes. (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Fabiola races back inside to light a candle and pray for Manman. But instead of ringing her bell, she lets Papa Legba sing and “open the gates.”... (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.... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...to ask about the school. The woman has on a brown coat and nice boots; Manman always said to judge people by their shoes. Fabiola turns to walk away, but the... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...leave, but Detective Stevens says she needs help—and in return, she can help Fabiola get Manman. At first, Fabiola smiles. Then, she remembers that Papa Legba can lead people through labyrinths... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Detective Stevens point out that Manman isn’t a citizen, and that the last time she was in the U.S., she overstayed... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Even though Fabiola is happy, she thinks about how Manman is still in New Jersey, and how Detective Stevens asked for something impossible. Kasim’s cellphone... (full context)
Chapter 10
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...old. Fabiola says that some do, but she doesn’t have enough money to do that. Manman wanted to retire in Detroit. Kasim says this is crazy, and he mentions that his... (full context)
Chapter 11
Spirituality Theme Icon
...stay quiet. On Joy Road, she’ll tell the truth and become happy, since she’ll get Manman back. She asks which road to take, but when she looks back to Papa Legba,... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...the city. She had to fight often, since people knew Matant Jo was sending money. Manman decided to leave because she was tired of fighting, and because she wanted Fabiola to... (full context)
Chapter 12
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...the bus, and Imani tells Fabiola to always sit near the bus driver. In Haiti, Manman always told Fabiola to sit in the back—it’s easier to jump out that way. Fabiola... (full context)
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...doesn’t care about Dray at all. The detective also knows that Fabiola needs to get Manman back. (full context)
Chapter 14
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...on Fabiola in preparation for her date with Kasim. Fabiola pulls away and wonders whether Manman would approve of Kasim or her outfit. Just then, her phone buzzes: it’s Detective Stevens,... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...seen. She wants to wrap up her memories of the performance and give them to Manman(full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...Meanwhile, Fabiola feels like Papa Legba is drawing her in as he works to get Manman to this side. Kasim kisses Fabiola, and the city looks uncharacteristically beautiful. (full context)
Chapter 15
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...struggles with a mix of feelings. Kasim makes her feel like honey, while thinking of Manman’s absence makes her feel empty. She misses the sun in Port-au-Prince, but she’s hopeful that... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...this street corner is going to collapse under all of Fabiola’s troubles. Fabiola remembers how Manman always says it’s impossible to get anything for free; sacrifices are necessary. Fabiola knows what... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...is in a detention center, and that she wants to throw a party here when Manman is released. Dray laughs and says that Uncle Q threw Matant Jo a birthday party... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...and then says that if Fabiola is free tomorrow, she can arrange a call with Manman. (full context)
Chapter 16
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...breaks school rules and keeps her phone in her bag. Detective Stevens texts her that Manman will call at noon, so Fabiola hides in a bathroom stall with her phone during... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...dark and stinks of alcohol and food. Fabiola tells her aunt that she spoke to Manman, and Matant Jo replies that Manman’s situation her is own fault—she’s always been hardheaded. She... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...asks Matant Jo what hurts, and Matant Jo says that everything hurts and asks if Manman was also in pain. Fabiola explains that Manman wasn’t in pain when they lived in... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
...Jo for years to thank her for her American passport, while Matant Jo insists that Manman should’ve stayed in Detroit after Fabiola was born. In Matant Jo’s mind, it’s Manman’s own... (full context)
Marjorie and Valerie’s Story
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Matant Jo says that when she was 15 and Manman was 13, their world opened up when the dictator of Haiti was thrown out. Everyone... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Jo and Valerie joined crowds waiting for boats to Miami and squeezed into a fishing boat with many... (full context)
Chapter 18
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...love with Kasim, but Ezili-Danto makes her want to kill Dray to free Donna and Manman. (full context)
Chapter 21
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...she knows she can’t. That will put her cousins in jail and won’t bring back Manman. She feels ready to fall over as Uncle Q insinuates that Matant Jo didn’t teach... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...concern her, but Fabiola knows that her cousins don’t understand. Now, Fabiola will never get Manman back. She calmly asks her cousins if they killed the girl on the news, and... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...make people pay her back. Chantal says that Matant Jo did all of this for Manman and Fabiola. Fabiola’s school was expensive, and Matant Jo believed that Manman was building a... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...insists that Fabiola just focus on graduating high school. Chantal also promises that they’ll get Manman out. Fabiola feels like she’s at a crossroads again as she reminds herself that her... (full context)
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...in Fabiola’s face and shoots her. Fabiola wakes up screaming. She ties her hair with Manman’s scarf, works on her altar, and prays to Papa Legba. (full context)
Chapter 22
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...aid and scholarship forms, but Fabiola doesn’t trust the free money, and the forms that Manman filled out got her nowhere. One night, Fabiola hears Pri singing about Taj in the... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...join. In the packed car, Fabiola feels like this is family—but then she remembers that Manman isn’t here. This makes her think of Detective Stevens and her cousins’ drugs. At the... (full context)
Chapter 23
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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.... (full context)
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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... (full context)
Chapter 26
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...when Fabiola’s suspension is over. Fabiola has never been suspended before, but she knows that Manman would beat her when she finds out about this. Terrified, she asks her cousins if... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...want to go to 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... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...can’t even fathom how much $20,000 is. They drive home in silence. Fabiola wishes that Manman hadn’t been detained, and that she didn’t know her cousins sold drugs. She knows she... (full context)
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...unlocks the doors, Fabiola slides into the passenger seat. She inhales the marijuana scent, remembering Manman’s advice: that they must let the lwas overtake them so that they can thwart people.... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...and Uncle Q’s house the other day, Fabiola says that she needs money to help Manman. She can’t ask her aunt or cousins, since they want Manman to go back to... (full context)
Chapter 28
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...restaurant. They take their meals to Kasim’s house. His mom isn’t home, and Fabiola knows Manman would have a heart attack if she knew. The neighborhood here is nicer than Fabiola’s.... (full context)
Chapter 29
Spirituality Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 32
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
...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 tries to call, but none... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
On the morning that Fabiola and her family will pick up Manman, Fabiola helps Pri load two suitcases into the car. It’s freezing cold outside, and Fabiola’s... (full context)