The Little Hawk

American Street by Ibi Zobio Reveals an Immigrant’s Struggles

Emme Perencevich, Reporter

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Immigration is a very controversial topic in the US today. Ibi Zoboi’s American Street provides a deeper understanding of the modern-day American immigrant experience.

Zoboi based American Street on her life in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and her immigration to the U.S. It explores modern day issues through the character’s experiences. Fabiola Toussaint, the main character, is an immigrant from Haiti whose perspective is based largely on Zoboi’s.

As soon as Fabiola lands in the US, her mother is detained. Fabiola wonders aloud if it’s a crime to come to American from a foreign country. It seems that is still the case, especially with the current administration’s plans to deport immigrants and make it impossible for those from certain countries to enter the US.

More than 200,000 people are deported from the US each year, just like Fabiola’s mom. Her story illustrates how desperately people try to get family members back after they are detained or deported. It also shows how the loss of a family member or loved one can affect you in more than just an emotional way.

The majority of the book is set in West Detroit, where Fabiola moves in with her aunt and cousins. It uses her new high school as a backdrop for exploring the dynamics of racism, abusive relationships, and drug dealing. These mature themes and issues are discussed thoroughly throughout the book and give insight on how difficult it is to fit in, whether it’s a new school, state, or even country.

American Street also incorporates Fabiola’s fierce spirituality as it guides her in the form of the Haitian god of the crossroads, Papa Legba. She also uses her faith to keep her connection with her mother, whom she may never see again. Her spiritual grounding (vodou) is what keeps her on the right path, even though she is surrounded by the violent and poverty-ridden streets of Detroit. American Street was Zoboi’s debut novel and was an American Book Award finalist. Her other works have been published in Haiti Noir, the New York Times Book Review, and the Horn Book magazine, among other publications.

I really liked this book. It was insightful and captivating. I read it in just one night and couldn’t put it down. I would recommend this book to any immigrant, a child of an immigrant, or just someone who believes that this country is for everyone.

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American Street by Ibi Zobio Reveals an Immigrant’s Struggles