American Street by Ibi Zoboi

American Street by Ibi Zoboi. February 14, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 324 p. ISBN: 9780062473042.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

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?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Marijuana usage; Drug dealing

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Zoboi’s stunning debut intertwines mysticism and love with grit and violence to tell the story of Fabiola Toussaint, a Haitian teen adjusting to her new life in Detroit. Fabiola’s dream of a better life with her aunt and cousins in America snags when her mother is detained at the U.S. border. Forced to continue alone, she must also confront the reality that her new neighborhood is every bit as dangerous as the one she left behind in Port-au-Prince. Drugs, gangs, and violence pervade the status quo, but thanks to her cousins’ tough reputations, Fabiola can find her footing. Zoboi, who emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti, brings a nuanced portrayal of that culture to the narrative. Evocative prose, where Fabiola calls on voodoo spirits, informs and enriches her character, while standing in counterpoint to her hard-as-nails cousins. Zoboi pulls no punches when describing the dangerous realities of the girls’ lives, but tender moments are carefully tucked into the plot as well. This story is many things. It is a struggle for survival. It is the uncovering of one’s bravest self. And, most significant, it is the coming together of a family. One or two scenarios strain credibility, but the characters’ complexities ultimately smooth over any bumps. Fierce and beautiful.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
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)

About 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 & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she was a recipient of the Norma Fox Mazer Award. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children. American Street is her first novel.

Her website is www.ibizoboi.net.

Teacher Resources

American Street Reading Group Resources

Around the Web

American Street on Amazon

American Street on Goodreads

American Street on JLG

American Street Publisher Page

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