Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rating: 5 stars

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?

After reading this book, I had the biggest book hangover of my life. I finished it at work, I was almost in tears (I would have cried but I have chronic dry eye, it's hard), I was feeling waaaay too many emotions and I didn't know how to handle them. Because I had this huge reaction to this book, I'm trying to figure out why people aren't talking about it more. There was a lot of lead up to American Street, then I think it was on the NY Times Bestsellers list for a while, then every time I turned to the Twitter I saw another post about The Hate You Give, and I was like, "Wait a sec world. The Hate You Give is great and there's going to be a movie and that's great too, but why'd we stop talking about American Street. I'm not done feeling super emotional about it yet." Whatever, that may be a post for another day.

  • All of it. Lol. Fabiola is a beautifully headstrong character. She knows who she is, she knows what she wants, and she's willing to do what she has to to get it. Fabiola did so much growing and learning throughout the book and while her changes may not have been for the better, they were beautifully written.
  • I don't have any family ties to Haiti so I don't know anything about their culture or religious beliefs, but it was so fascinating to read about and done so well. I loved hearing about the spirit guides, the alter, Iwas. and our most beloved Papa Legba. I'm still not sure if he was a saint or not. 
  • The stories. I most recently saw this in The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, where the book is broken up with the background stories of the characters. It gave us such an insight into Aunt Jo and why she seems to have turned away from her Haitian heritage, the twins, and I certainly wasn't ready for Dray's story. Goodness. 
  • Kasim. Enough said.
  • There's just too much to list. This is a great story, have the tissues ready.
 Didn't Like:
  • Full disclosure, it's not that there's anything I didn't like in this book, there were just some aspects that weren't my cup of tea. I spent so many years reading books and watching movies that took place is urban communities around gangs and drugs, and while typically the main character was trying to avoid the negativity or find a way out, I hear so much crap about minorities and urban life that sometimes I'm afraid books and movies like that perpetuate a negative stereotype. I will defend to the death that these stories need to be told but... *sigh* it's just hard. That being said, I had a hard time with the language "Yo, check your girl." "You already know how I roll" "Why you not answering my calls". Again I didn't dislike it, it's 100% accurate for the setting of this story and I eventually got over it. But ever time I read a sentence like this, it brought up the face of another person who heard me speak and was shocked at my sentence structure. I never have and never will say "You already know how I roll" get over it world. To be honestly that was the hardest adjustment for me. I spent years dealing with people commenting on my speech patterns. It's a sore spot for me, and reading books like this sometimes make me think "See that's why no one thinks I can string together a sentence, stop making my life harder." I know the thoughts of ignorant people can't be blamed on Ibi Zoboi or anyone else who writes about the urban lifestyle, it's just a sore spot for me. 

There is also a video recording of Ibi Zoboi lecturing about the two years she spent researching black girls in middle grade and young adult fiction. I found it on Twitter then again on her own website and it is worth watching.

This woman has done her homework. Something I appreciate as a librarian. I love her, I love this book. Everyone read it!!!

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