American Street
By Ibi Zoboi
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
Age Range: 14+

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A National Book Award Finalist with five starred reviews!

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?

Reviews & Accolades
“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.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Shortly after landing at JFK airport, in New York immigration officials forced teenager Fabiola and her Haitian mother to separate. Fabiola decides she will do anything to ensure they are reunited. Zoboi weaves warmth, heartbreak, and determination into this debut, page-turner novel, creating a story that is instantly relatable to all, but especially female readers in urban areas. This coming-of-age story follows Haitian/American immigrant Fabiola as she transitions to her new life as a junior in a private school on Detroit’s west side. Living with Mantant Jo and cousins, Chantel, Primadonna, and Princess, in the small house at the crossroads of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola hopes to live out all her and her mother’s dreams. But those dreams come crashing down, replaced by the realization that this new life is not so different from the old one back in Haiti. Still, Fabiola lives the life of any teenager—studying, laughing with friends, and finding first love—while boldly doing whatever it takes to obtain her mother’s freedom. Zoboi’s writing incorporates current events, Voodoo traditions, and realistic characters that pull in readers and add to the authenticity of the story. Artfully incorporating culture, mysticism, grit, and bravery, Zoboi has crafted a dazzling entrance into the Young Adult literary world that is sure to leave readers wanting more.” —Children’s Literature

“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.”
School Library Journal (Starred Review)

“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.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

Groups Represented
Haitian American

Cross-Group Friendship
Education & Literacy
Family Relationships
Family Separation
Racial Discrimination
Undocumented Immigration

United States (Detroit, MI)

Engagement Projects & Resources
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