American Streetby Ibi Zoboi
American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Everything, Everything; Bone Gap; and All American Boys. In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism/em>/em>/em>/em>
American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Everything, Everything; Bone Gap; and All American Boys. In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodou culture.
On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.
But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.
Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?
Zoboi’s powerful debut, set in current-day Detroit (but based on the author’s experience as a Haitian immigrant in 1980s Bushwick, Brooklyn), unflinchingly tackles contemporary issues of immigration, assimilation, violence, and drug dealing. Although born in America, teenage Fabiola has grown up with her mother in Port au Prince, dreaming of a better life with her aunt and cousins in Detroit. Upon arriving in New York City, Fabiola’s mother, lacking proper documents, is sent to a detention center while Fabiola must go on alone to Detroit. Shocked by the rough urban environment, her pugnacious cousins, her aunt’s lethargy, and her cousin Donna’s physically abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend, Dray, Fabiola turns to her Haitian spirits (lwas)—as well as a mysterious street man—for guidance, while embarking on a tentative romance with Dray’s friend Kasim. When she strikes a deal with a police detective to set up Dray for arrest in exchange for her mother’s release, it results in a dangerous situation with devastating results. Mixing gritty street life with the tenderness of first love, Haitian Vodou, and family bonds, the book is at once chilling, evocative, and reaffirming. Ages 14–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Feb.)
Gr 9 Up—After her mother is detained by immigration officials, Fabiola Toussaint has to finish her move from Port-au-Prince to Detroit alone. The tough-as-nails cousins and exhausted aunt who greet her in Michigan bear little resemblance to the warm family she had dreamed of when she was in Haiti. Left with a mother-size hole in her life, Fabiola begins the unsteady process of assimilation, holding on to her family's spiritual traditions while navigating the disconnectedness and violence of her new home. A sweet romance and her cousins' fierce and complex support ease the teen into a halfway space between worlds, but her eyes remain on the prize of reuniting with her mother. When Fabiola is approached by the police to inform on her cousin's volatile boyfriend in exchange for information about her mother, she must work around the gaps in her understanding to make some explosive decisions. In this bright, sharp debut, Zoboi weaves grittiness, sensitivity, and complexity into every character, but Fabiola's longing, determination, and strength shine especially brightly. VERDICT A breathtaking story about contemporary America that will serve as a mirror to some and a window for others, and it will stay with anyone who reads it. A must-purchase for YA collections.—Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI
Fabiola Toussaint is a black immigrant girl whose life is flipped upside down when she moves to Detroit, Michigan, from her homeland of Haiti and her mother is detained by the INS, leaving her to go on alone. Though Fabiola was born in the U.S., she has lived in Haiti since she was an infant, and that has now left her unprepared for life in America. In Detroit, she lives with her aunt Marjorie and her three thoroughly Americanized cousins, Chantal, Primadonna, and Princess. It's not easy holding on to her heritage and identity in Detroit; Matant Jo fines Fabiola for speaking Creole (though even still "a bit of Haiti is peppered in her English words"), and the gritty streets of Detroit are very different from those of Port-au-Prince. Fabiola has her faith to help keep her grounded, which grows ever more important as she navigates her new school, American society, and a surprising romance—but especially when she is faced with a dangerous proposition that brings home to her the fact that freedom comes with a price. Fabiola's perceptive, sensitive narration gives readers a keen, well-executed look into how the American dream can be a nightmare for so many. Filling her pages with magic, humanity, tragedy, and hope, Zoboi builds up, takes apart, and then rebuilds an unforgettable story. This book will take root in readers' hearts. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Meet the Author
Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and immigrated to the U.S. when she was four years old. She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she was a recipient of the Norma Fox Mazer Award. Her award-winning and Pushcart-nominated writing has been published in Haiti Noir, the Caribbean Writer, the New York Times Book Review, The Horn Book magazine, and The Rumpus, among other publications. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their three children. American Street is her first novel. Visit the author at www.ibizoboi.net.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
3.5 stars I have mixed feeling about this novel. I wasn’t expecting what I got when I read this novel. I felt it could have delivered a stronger message but I thought sections of this novels were excellent and I enjoyed Fabiola’s relationships with her cousins. Each of these relationships were unique and they showed something about the character of Fabiola. The novel focuses on Fabiola who arrives in Detroit from Haiti without her mother, Manman. Planning and saving, the two of them were going to stay with Manman’s sister and her daughters who they hadn’t seen in such a long time. Detained in customs, Manman whereabouts are unknown but Fabiola believes in the spirits that she calls upon and in her prayers, that soon they will be safely reunited. I thought that the culture changes for Fabiola as a whole, would materialize through this novel but they were only referred to, in beginning pages of this novel. The noises, the colors, the food, the major culture difference that Fabiola notices that are missing or added to her life now, the author makes a point to mention each one as she experiences them in the beginning pages of this novel but then suddenly she must get used to them because these differences are hardly mentioned throughout the rest of the novel. It isn’t long before Fabiola gets swallowed up into being an American teen. Her cousins wrap her up in their drama, she is casts into high school where peers and fitting in matter, and it isn’t long before boys and romance come into the picture. I wasn’t expecting things to happen so quickly for her and for her feeling to become so intense. The novel is more about Fabiola becoming a teen, the ups and downs, the drama and the dangers when she gets too close to the edge. I wasn’t expecting it to go that far. I expected Fabiola to behave differently but she had gone too far, too fast. I thought the novel would also look at Fabiola and Manman issue(s) and address them, spend time on them but it didn’t happen how I expected. This novel was eventful, I loved many of the characters and I wanted to tie a rope around Fabiola to keep her close to me for I cared for her.
This is a stunning and powerful debut. It's full of complex layers, from questions about family relationships and loyalty to those of identity, faith, freedom, and home. Achingly raw yet hopeful, Fabiola's story is not to be missed.
(I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.) “We will get my Manman. I exhale deep as we leave the airport. It feels like I’m leaving part of me behind – a leg, an arm. My whole heart.” This was a YA contemporary story about a girl newly arrived in America from Haiti. Fabiola was an okay character, and I felt sorry for her the way her mother was detained by customs and she was left to start her life in America without her. The storyline in this was about Fabiola starting her new life in America with her cousins, and learning more about what their lives were really like, and where their money came from. I don’t want to say too much, but Fabiola never stopped fighting for her mother to be released into the states, and did everything she could to make that happen. I did find that the story didn’t hold my interest very well though. The ending to this was okay, and there were realistic consequences for Fabiola’s actions. 6 out of 10