American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Drayton’s Story Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dray says that there’s no way to know what it feels like to leave your body when you die. It’s not like floating; it hurts. The bullet to his head dredges up all sorts of memories he thought he’d forgotten. He feels like he’s been dead before as he remembers running somewhere where he felt free. Dray wasn’t supposed to be running there, so “a bullet pulled [him] back to reality.” Now, Dray knows that in death, people take back everything that’s theirs. When Dray was “born again in Detroit,” he was supposed to be free. He wasn’t, though—he had to contend with a corrupt system. This is why, when Uncle Q gave 10-year-old Dray a gun and told him to shoot the guy in the Detroit Tigers cap, it felt like nothing.
Dray’s story is cryptic: he could be talking about reincarnation, and his experience running and feeling free may have happened in a different life. Or, since a bullet “pulled him back,” this could also be the story of how he lost his eye. Nevertheless, Dray tries to portray himself in a sympathetic light. He made bad choices, but he’s a product of a world that has never loved or supported him. The system in Detroit isn’t set up to help him do anything more than become a drug dealer.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Dray says that there’s war in Detroit. His family has been fighting to breathe for generations, so there was nothing to think about when he was given the gun. But Dray’s aim was off. Though Uncle Q told him to calm down, Uncle Q got into Dray’s head and messed up his aim. 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 himself to Uncle Q. He’s never told 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 to do but wait to return.
Here, Dray indicates that the violence he experienced and caused has been going on for generations. Because Black people in the United States have been victims of racial violence for centuries, it doesn’t feel as meaningful as it might otherwise to pick up a gun and shoot someone. This doesn’t make it easy, however. Furthermore, the revelation that Dray murdered Phillip helps explain why he chose to date and abuse Donna. This was how he could express his hatred of and frustration with a world that set him up to fail.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Related Quotes