American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

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The House at 8800 American Street Symbol Analysis

The House at 8800 American Street Symbol Icon

The house at 8800 American Street represents hope and the American Dream. Situated on the corner of American Street and Joy Road, generations of different residents have purchased the house hoping for a piece of “American joy” as its location seems to symbolize—but none of them have found it. The various owners—most of whom were Black, immigrants, or both—inevitably turned to illicit (and dangerous) means of getting by, or else they were murdered in or near the house. The house thus represents the idea that although the American Dream promises immigrants a joyful life, the U.S. offers them few paths to success—if success is even possible at all. The fact that the novel ends with Matant Jo moving her family out of the house suggests that there’s no solution to this problem. The American Dream, and the house at 8800 American Street, will continue to disappoint people.

The House at 8800 American Street Quotes in American Street

The American Street quotes below all refer to the symbol of The House at 8800 American Street. 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 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:
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:
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 21 Quotes

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:
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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The House at 8800 American Street Symbol Timeline in American Street

The timeline below shows where the symbol The House at 8800 American Street appears in American Street. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
The front door of the white house on the corner opens. The face inside looks like Manman’s, but rounder—and this face doesn’t... (full context)
Chapter 5
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...feels lonely. As she eats a meal out of paper bags, she feels like the house wants to squeeze her. It feels like the exact opposite of the earthquake, when it... (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 on the corner... (full context)
Chapter 7
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...with Dray, and Fabiola surprises herself by offering to accompany Donna too. Outside Matant Jo’s house, Bad Leg is singing. Fabiola leans forward and tells Dray to not hit Bad Leg... (full context)
Chapter 10
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...she can tell that Kasim would do anything for his family. In front of the house, Kasim kisses Fabiola. (full context)
Chapter 13
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...from Dray as he reaches for her lap. She only notices they’re at Matant Jo’s house when she hears her cousins shouting for a “bitch” to get out of the car.... (full context)
Chapter 19
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Dray is so angry that the house seems to shake. He’s downstairs, shouting for Donna—earlier, Donna cursed him out for cheating and... (full context)
Chapter 20
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Dray’s last name. But Kasim seems unconcerned and mimes giving Fabiola his heart. Outside the house, Fabiola asks if they can do this again every day. She sees Papa Legba and... (full context)
Chapter 21
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Fabiola runs back to the house, but it’s locked. She steps back and stares at the address, 8800 American Street. Somehow,... (full context)
The Story of 8800 American Street
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...seemed like the American Dream to Adrian Weiss and his wife, Ruth. They moved into 8800 American Street in 1924 after emigrating from Poland, and they had their first baby when Adrian had... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
In 1942, the next owner of the house was hit by a car. In 1947, one of American Street’s first black residents was... (full context)
Chapter 30
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...and Donna—not Fabiola. Dray flashes a gun, but Fabiola darts past him and into the house. She runs to her altar and searches for a candle, but Dray pounds up the... (full context)
Chapter 32
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...more attention. They don’t go to protests and try to avoid the ghosts in their house. Kasim’s ghost isn’t in the house; he’s out with the people, “Divided amongst many.” Dray... (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
...into the car. It’s freezing cold outside, and Fabiola’s fingers burn. Earlier, she scrubbed the house with alcohol and bleach to try to get rid of the stench of death. When... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Pri goes back inside the house, and Fabiola looks around. She catches sight of Bad Leg near the lamppost, but just... (full context)