American Street

American Street


Ibi Zoboi

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Themes and Colors
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in American Street, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Dignity and the American Dream

American Street follows Fabiola, a 16-year-old Haitian American girl. Just before the novel begins, Fabiola and her mother, Manman, passed through customs as they entered the United States—but while Fabiola is a U.S. citizen and was allowed through, Manman isn’t a citizen and so was detained. Over the course of the novel, as Fabiola settles in Detroit with her aunt and cousins, she tries very hard get Manman out of the detention facility…

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In Haiti, Fabiola’s mother, Manman, was a mambo, or a priestess of Haitian Vodou. When Manman is detained upon entering the U.S., forcing Fabiola to enter the country and start her new life with her aunt and cousins alone, Fabiola does her best to maintain her spiritual relationships with the lwas (Vodou spirits). Fabiola’s spirituality allows her to see her cousins and peers as human iterations of lwas, interpret things…

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Family and Loyalty

Family is deeply important in American Street: Fabiola and her mother, Manman, are extremely close, while Fabiola must try to integrate into her cousins’ tight-knit sibling group once she arrives in Detroit. This proves difficult, in part because Fabiola has an idealized view of what family should look like and how family members should act. As she grapples with her own shifting understanding of what it means to be a family, Fabiola remains…

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Identity and the Immigrant Experience

Moving to Detroit from Haiti is a shocking, uncomfortable experience for Fabiola—especially because her mother, Manman, is detained and so doesn’t accompany Fabiola to live with Matant Jo and Fabiola’s cousins. Feeling alone and unmoored, Fabiola has to confront the fact that in her cousins’ eyes, she looks too Haitian—while Fabiola’s American-born cousins Pri and Donna look embarrassingly American to her. With these difference, the novel suggests that the quest to find one’s…

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Trauma, Violence, and Desperation

Fabiola’s idealized understanding of the United States shatters when she encounters the stark reality of life in Detroit. Fabiola soon learns that Detroit isn’t the vibrant, dignified, free place she thought it was—for her family and others in her neighborhood, life is difficult, violent, and desperate. To some degree, the novel suggests this is the case for immigrants as a whole, but it also implies that the specific brand of violence and desperation that…

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