American Street

American Street
Written by Ibi Zoboi

Publisher’s Summary:
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?

Primary Source Pairing:
“I stare out the window as we drive out of Michigan. I press my forehead and fingertips against the glass. On the other side is the wide, free road. Unlike in Haiti, which means ‘land of many mountains,’ the ground is level here and stretches as far as I can see — as if there are no limits to dreams here” (pg. 324).

Fabiola comes to Detroit to live with her aunt and cousins but so much of who she is still resides in Haiti. Living in these two settings in her reality and through her memories, Fabiola creates a new normal in Detroit. The setting for this story is as important as the characters themselves. For this primary source pairing, invite students to study two images: one of Port Au Prince, Haiti and one of Detroit, Michigan.

Questions for Discussion:

  • How are these photographs similar? How are they different?
  • What do you notice first?
  • Find something small but interesting.
  • What do you notice that you didn’t expect?
  • What do you notice that you can’t explain?
  • What do you see that looks strange or unfamiliar?
  • How is the setting important to this story?
  • How is the setting similar or different from where you live?
  • How would this story be different if the setting was elsewhere?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Port Au Prince, Haiti: Wikimedia Commons
Detroit, Michigan: “Atkinson Avenue Historic District, middle of 2nd block west of Lodge freeway facing west toward Woodrow Wilson,” created by Robert Thompson Ab5602, Wikimedia Commons