American Street

American Street


Ibi Zoboi

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American Street: Matant Jo’s Story Summary & Analysis

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 on the corner of American Street and Joy Road, 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 in Detroit. Now, the only thing they have left of Phillip is this house. According to Matant Jo, Phillip left a hole in her heart just like the bullet hole 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 while.
As Matant Jo tells Phillip’s story, she makes it clear that Phillip believed in the same idealistic version of the American Dream that Fabiola did. However, Phillip’s gruesome death doesn’t bode well for Fabiola; it suggests that the American Dream isn’t attainable, if it exists at all. Further, the aside that there’s no Haitian community in Detroit indicates that Fabiola and her family are even more unmoored than they might otherwise be in a different city. In Detroit, they stand out more, and they don’t have a community to support them.
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