American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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Phillip/Jean-Phillip François Character Analysis

Phillip was Fabiola’s uncle; Matant Jo’s husband; and Chantal, Pri, and Donna’s father. He’s been deceased for about a decade when the novel begins. In the late 1990s, Phillip immigrated to the United States from Haiti. In Haiti, Phillip sold cars, so he has big dreams of becoming rich by working in Detroit’s car factories. Like many immigrants before him, he was thrilled when he saw the house at 8800 American Street, which sits on the corner of American Street and Joy Road—he thought that by purchasing the house, he’d buy a piece of “American joy.” But although he, Matant Jo, and their daughters were happy in that house, Phillip couldn’t make ends meet working in the factory. He ultimately turned to selling drugs on the side for Uncle Q, something that resulted in his murder. While his living family doesn’t know who killed him, Dray reveals to the reader (after his own death) that he accidentally shot Phillip when he was 10 years old, under Uncle Q’s watchful eye. This possibly explains Uncle Q’s generous payout of $30,000 to Matant Jo to make up for what Chantal describes as “a deal gone bad.” Dray also reveals that Phillip’s ghost has been haunting him since Phillip died. Phillip’s death also destroyed his family in important ways: Matant Jo became a loan shark to make ends meet, while their children feel compelled to defend themselves and their family history by any means necessary. In Haiti, Fabiola and Manman prayed daily for Uncle Phillip and for Matant Jo, who was devastated by her husband’s death.

Phillip/Jean-Phillip François Quotes in American Street

The American Street quotes below are all either spoken by Phillip/Jean-Phillip François or refer to Phillip/Jean-Phillip 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:
Matant Jo’s Story Quotes

This is your home now, Fabiola. This is Phillip’s house—the house he bought with the last bit of money he had from Haiti. He had dreams, you know. That’s why when he saw this house for sale, on the corner of American Street and Joy Road, he insisted on buying it with the cash from his ransacked and burned-to-the-ground car dealership in Port-au-Prince. He thought he was buying American Joy.

Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
The Story of 8800 American Street Quotes

So in 2000, Jean-Phillip François, the Haitian immigrant and the first occupant to actually land a job at a car factory—the Chrysler plant—paid the city three thousand dollars in cash for that little house on American Street.

And maybe because the little house had been revived with the sounds of babies and the scent of warm meals and love and hopes and dreams, Death woke from its long sleep to claim the life of Haitian immigrant and father of three Jean-Phillip François with a single bullet to the head outside the Chrysler plant.

Death parked itself on the corner of American and Joy, some days as still as stone, other days singing cautionary songs and delivering telltale riddles, waiting for the day when one girl would ask to open the gates to the other side.

Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
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American Street PDF

Phillip/Jean-Phillip François Character Timeline in American Street

The timeline below shows where the character Phillip/Jean-Phillip François appears in American Street. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...Fabiola’s concern and points to the kitchen appliances. Without smiling, Matant Jo says that uncle Phillip bought this house, and now, she’s happy to share it with Fabiola. Her voice is... (full context)
Princess’s Story
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...and an employed father would make the twins royalty. But that dream fell apart when Phillip was killed. Princess doesn’t remember much about this time, but she does recall by the... (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
Matant Jo tells Fabiola that this is her home now. Phillip bought this house with the last of his money from Haiti; since the house is... (full context)
Chapter 7
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...day, and that Manman has been looking for answers as to why God took Uncle Phillip away from Matant Jo. Pri tells Fabiola to never say her father’s name again, and... (full context)
Chapter 9
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...cousin. She says that she knows Pri, Chantal, and Matant Jo, and that she knows Phillip was killed. Fabiola decides to trust the woman, since she knows this part of her... (full context)
Chantal’s Story
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...works. Chantal remembers how, when she was nine, she had to translate newspaper articles about Phillip’s murder for Matant Jo. Later, when detectives came to the house, Chantal had to translate... (full context)
Chapter 14
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...when Kasim says he knows all about “Haitian Phil.” He says that Pri talks about Phillip all the time and makes sure that everyone knows that her father “went down for... (full context)
Chapter 15
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...of the house, she calls Detective Stevens. In a rush, Fabiola says that her uncle Phillip “went down” for Dray’s Uncle Q, and that there are bad things happening in the... (full context)
Chapter 21
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...get the money. Chantal explains that Uncle Q was like a father to them after Phillip died. Pri snaps that Uncle Q isn’t going to let $15,000 slide, but Chantal turns... (full context)
The Story of 8800 American Street
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...and 90s, the house was rented out, and many dealers and junkies died there. Finally, Jean-Phillip François bought the house in 2000. The narrator wonders if it was the hope, dreams,... (full context)
Chapter 23
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Fabiola can’t go on without her. Fabiola writes that her cousins sell drugs and that Phillip died because of drugs. Manman would say that this sort of thing runs in the... (full context)
Chapter 31
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...to sob over Kasim’s body as Pri says that hey never got to sob over Phillip’s body. Finally, Chantal sends Fabiola upstairs for a sheet. (full context)
Drayton’s Story
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...Dray missed, and instead of hitting the guy in the Detroit Tigers cap, he hit Phillip. Dray spent the rest of his life working on his aim and trying to prove... (full context)
Chapter 32
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...the dash. One is of her and Manman as teens; the other is of her, Phillip, toddler Chantal, and babies Pri and Donna. Fabiola spots something in the background and asks... (full context)