American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on American Street can help.
Cars Symbol Icon

The cars that Fabiola’s friends and family drive represent the American Dream—and what the U.S. does and doesn’t offer its residents, especially those who are racial minorities and/or immigrants. First, Chantal’s sedan with leather seats initially symbolizes what’s possible for immigrants in the U.S. To Fabiola, Chantal’s ability to own such a nice, sensible car drives means that it’s possible to make it in the U.S. if one works hard and does well in school. This, she later discovers, is something of a sham: part of Chantal’s financial success comes from drug money, in much the same way that Dray is able to afford a BMW thanks to his own drug-dealing. Chantal and Dray’s cars thus represent the wealth and comfortable lifestyle that a person can attain if they’re willing to compromise their morals to get ahead. Success, in this sense, is possible—but the success, the novel suggests, is tainted and dangerous.

Kasim’s car contrasts with both Chantal’s sedan and Dray’s BMW: it’s an old and constantly broken down. Kasim drives such an unreliable car because he’s saving his money—which he earns working in a café—to buy a house. Yet Kasim never achieves this goal—the police murder him before he has the opportunity to buy his house. Kasim is also never able to upgrade the broken, unreliable car that he purchased to leverage his goals. This speaks to the idea that for all the success and wealth that life in the U.S. supposedly offers, the vast majority of low-income Americans, like Kasim, will never be able to achieve those things.

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Cars Symbol Timeline in American Street

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cars appears in American Street. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
...wonders if mansions like she saw on TV will sparkle in the dark, but the car is moving too fast. Chantal drives, while Donna admires herself in the rearview mirror from... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...he welcomes someone to the “City of the Dead.” As the man finishes, a white car races around the corner and stops. A man gets out of the car, shouts at... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Another man gets out of the car, calls the punching man Dray, and helps Bad Leg up. At the same time, Donna... (full context)
Chapter 4
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...that they have 10 minutes before it’s time to leave. Fabiola only remembers seeing one car out front, and she asks when Matant Jo is going to work. Chantal and Pri... (full context)
Princess’s Story
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...by the time she and Donna were in middle school, Matant Jo had the newest car in the neighborhood. They were also the first family to have flat-screen TVs, laptops, and... (full context)
Chapter 6
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...$400 for her “expenses.” This is the most money Fabiola has ever had, so she carries it in her purse. It makes her feel more American. On Friday, Chantal, Pri, and... (full context)
Chapter 9
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...her visa. But if Fabiola helps with this investigation, they can get Manman a green card. Fabiola is still suspicious, so she asks what this will cost. Detective Stevens assures her... (full context)
Chapter 10
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...pays for the meal in cash and ignores Fabiola as they get back in his car. There, Fabiola puts a hand on his and says she meant to ask if he... (full context)
Chapter 13
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...thumping music coming from outside. Imani begins to dance as Kasim walks outside to Dray’s car, and Kasim waves the girls outside so he can finish cleaning. Dray gets out and... (full context)
Chapter 14
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
When the doorbell rings, Fabiola sees Dray’s car outside—Dray let Kasim borrow it. Fabiola doesn’t want to get in and looks for Bad... (full context)
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...much the tickets cost. She tells Kasim that he should be spending money on his car and his mother, not her. He sighs and says that he got the tickets from... (full context)
Chapter 17
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...Chantal is honking the horn for Fabiola, Fabiola lets Imani go and gets in the car. She tells Donna that Imani is just trying to help with school, not steal Dray.... (full context)
Chapter 18
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...shocked. Fabiola allows Donna to dress her in tight clothes and follows her to Dray’s car when they hear it pull up. Kasim looks confused when he sees Fabiola, but she... (full context)
Chapter 19
Spirituality Theme Icon
...Dray goes back downstairs and shouts that he loves Donna. As Dray goes to his car, Fabiola meets his eyes from her window. She stares at him and thinks that she’ll... (full context)
Chapter 20
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Kasim picks Fabiola up in his old car that afternoon. Fabiola gets in slowly, so that Tonesha sees her. Fabiola and Kasim kiss,... (full context)
Chapter 24
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...Bad Leg, but she doesn’t want Dray to see her. Fortunately, Dray gets in his car when Donna calls to him. He zooms away, while Donna follows Fabiola inside. She grudgingly... (full context)
Chapter 26
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola finds Dray’s car outside. She waits for Dray to notice her and then, she taps on his window.... (full context)
Chapter 29
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...thinks that this is where dreams come true. Eventually, the girls see lights from police cars and ambulances on the street of the party. Pri insists they can’t get closer, but... (full context)
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
...her to go. Chantal appears and can barely get herself and Fabiola back to the car. In the car, Chantal whispers that the police shot Kasim. Fabiola screams. She feels like... (full context)
Chapter 30
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Everyone cries in the car. Fabiola wails, and Pri curses. When they reach the house, they see Dray sitting on... (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
...if this is true, she can’t figure out where Kasim fits in. One day, a car pulls up: it’s Detective Stevens. Fabiola only gets in when Detective Stevens says that she... (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
...and her family will pick up Manman, Fabiola helps Pri load two suitcases into the car. It’s freezing cold outside, and Fabiola’s fingers burn. Earlier, she scrubbed the house with alcohol... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...Fabiola. The family spends a few more hours cleaning. Finally, they all get in the car. Matant Jo props up two old photos on the dash. One is of her and... (full context)