American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on American Street can help.
Lwas are Vodou spirit guides. Fabiola describes them as being akin to Catholic saints.

Lwa Quotes in American Street

The American Street quotes below are all either spoken by Lwa or refer to Lwa. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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 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 8 Quotes

“Leg. Bad,” I say loud and clear, because I now see him for who he is—the old man at the crossroads with his hat and cane and riddles come to open doors for me. He is the lwa who guards the gates to everything good—to everything bad, too. “Bad. Leg. Legba. Papa Legba.”

Related Characters: Fabiola Toussaint (speaker), Bad Leg/Papa Legba
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

Then I begin to see him for who he really is. Dray, with his sunglasses even as night spreads across the sky, and his gold cross gleaming, and his love/hate for my cousin, reminds me of the lwa Baron Samedi, guardian of the cemetery—keeper of death.

Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

“Matant Jo,” I say. “Bad Leg at the corner, he’s not just a crazy man. He is Papa Legba and he is opening doors and big, big gates. I will show you. I promise.”

She turns to me. “Child, this is Detroit. Ain’t no Papa Legba hanging out on corners. Only dealers and junkies. You don’t know shit. But don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.”

Related Characters: Fabiola Toussaint (speaker), Matant Jo François (speaker), Bad Leg/Papa Legba
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

This is a makeshift altar for Ezili with all the things she loves in the world. My whole body tingles when I realize what’s happening.

Again, Papa Legba has opened another door. How could I have missed this? Of course, I need Ezili’s help, too. And she’d been right under my nose, working through Donna with all her talk about hair, jewelry, clothes, and beauty.

Page Number: 178
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:
Get the entire American Street LitChart as a printable PDF.
American Street PDF

Lwa Term Timeline in American Street

The timeline below shows where the term Lwa 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
...she saw a vision of Manman. Manman told her to trust every sign from the lwas—but Fabiola thinks she hasn’t heard anything from the lwas since Manman was detained. Fabiola can... (full context)
Chapter 4
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...she asks who Papa Legba is. As Fabiola tells her that Papa Legba is the lwa of the crossroads who can help Manman “come to this side,” Donna barges into the... (full context)
Chapter 7
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Fabiola’s altar and asks if it works. Fabiola replies that she and Manman asked the lwas to protect their Detroit family every day, and that Manman has been looking for answers... (full context)
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
...her that she feels more connected to Manman now that she’s been calling on the lwas. Fabiola has a vision of Manman crying and wonders why Manman is being punished. Maybe... (full context)
Chapter 8
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...a crossroads, with riddles and a cane, and realizes that Bad Leg is actually the lwa Papa Legba. Fabiola asks why he didn’t let Manman through, but Bad Leg closes his... (full context)
Chapter 13
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...Fabiola feels her rage melting away as she realizes that Dray reminds her of the lwa Baron Samedi, the guardian of the cemetery. She hates Dray and everything he does, and... (full context)
Chapter 14
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...YouTube hair tutorial and does Fabiola’s hair. When they’re done, Fabiola feels like Ezili, the lwa of beauty. Donna insists that Fabiola looks like Rosa Parks and storms out when Fabiola... (full context)
Chapter 17
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...hurt Dray, Fabiola says that Ezili-Danto would support that. She explains that Ezili-Danto is the lwa of vengeance for women. Fabiola sits for her transformation and vows to take down Dray. (full context)
Chapter 21
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...Samedi; and if Donna is Ezili and Ezili-Danto, then Chantal and Pri can also be lwas. They’re all here to help. (full context)
Chapter 23
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Kasim catches sight of Fabiola’s altar. Fabiola explains that she practices Vodou, and that their lwas are like spirit guides. Kasim shares that he grew up Muslim and that his name... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
...is Fabiola supposed to do to remove this curse? In closing, Fabiola says that the lwas are all around, helping her. Papa Legba will soon allow Manman through the gate. (full context)
Chapter 26
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...passenger seat. She inhales the marijuana scent, remembering Manman’s advice: that they must let the lwas overtake them so that they can thwart people. Fabiola asks Dray for marijuana and tells... (full context)
Chapter 29
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
...from God, but the destruction kept going. Fabiola isn’t even sure if God or the lwas can hear her now. Suddenly, Fabiola has an idea and asks for Chantal’s phone so... (full context)