American Street

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 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

Reviewed: 2019-06-18

Lincoln Award Nominee (2019), Américas Award (2018), National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature (2017)

This is one of the better YA books I've read in recent years. I've been doing more misses than hits in the YA world, and I sort of dreaded reading this. I decided I'd start & stop if I didn't like it, mostly because I wanted the shelf space. As usually happens when I decide to read something to make shelf space, I really liked this enough that I will have a hard time just donating it to a random box. I was very taken in by Fabiola's story, her culture shock, her very decent character in the face of... loads of crap. The ending was a bit of a disappointment for the lack of realism after what had seemed highly realistic (yes, even the magical parts.) She is a good egg, even when her actions or intentions seem like the absolutely wrong thing to do, it's easy to see how coming from another culture and a very sheltered life might lead someone to make the choices she makes. Beyond her story, the book brings up loads of other issues related to immigration, families, what being an American means and in a wonderful moment, we get to see how someone raised in America (as a resident alien) dreams of what life might have been had she not come to the US. There are some very nice moments in this book, but the main character is the real draw here. 

Reviewed: 2018-09-22
This book was definitely unlike anything I've read before - and that's exactly why it's so good. It's own voices, about Haitian immigrants in Detroit, and while it's closer to magical realism than the fantasy that I was expecting, I still enjoyed the fact that the magic was from a different cultural background than the fantasy that I usually read.

I couldn't quite pin down the age of our main character, Fabiola. We're never outright told her age, and in the first couple of chapters she reads as very young to me; however, she goes to the same high school as her cousins and ends up having sex for the first time in the novel, so that may just be well-written innocence/naivete plus the shock of suddenly ending up in a foreign country without her mother. That sort of shock might regress anyone a bit.

This book ended up being a little younger-feeling than I expected overall, despite the heavy subject matter, which wasn't unwelcome. If the story had come down hard on the subject matter, this could easily have been a rough book to get through. As it was, the book pulled at my heartstrings without breaking my heart. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to read some YA own voices magical realism. It's a really good book that does things, that I, at least, had never come across before in my own reading, and I'm better for having read it.

This review first appeared on my blog.
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@ellamc began #americanstreet... on 2018-05-28
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@zoearabella completed #americanstreet... on 2017-04-06
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