Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review: American Street

Title: American Street
Author: Ibi Zoboi  
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Review copy: ARC via Edelweiss
Availability: On shelves now

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?

Review: American Street and Joy Road cross each other in Detroit. Fabiola's cousins live near this intersection of streets that would seem to bring happiness and the answers to dreams. Fabiola is finding the reality to be very different than what she had expected though. She was coming with her mother from Haiti, but her mother was detained by immigration officials so she had to meet her cousins and her aunt on her own. There are new people to meet and many adjustments to make, but Fabiola holds onto her faith and her inner strength as she settles into the new family and culture. This is very much an immigrant story. Readers see the challenges Fabiola goes through and the balancing act she has holding her values and history close while still trying to find her way in this new life.

This is also a story of family ties and sisterhood. What are sisters willing to do for each other? Fabiola's cousins may fight among themselves sometimes, but they always have each other's back. The majority of the story is told from Fabiola's perspective, but we do get chapters in between from the sisters and other characters so we get their point of view sometimes.

Faith plays a role in the story too. Fabiola believes in Haitian Vodou and is not about to let that go. In American media, Vodou can often be portrayed in a negative way or is included only to add something exotic. This isn't the case in American Street. It's unique enough that her cousins ask questions about what she's doing, but it is an important part of Fabiola's daily life.

Her faith is something Fabiola appreciates about her Haitian culture. She doesn't just accept the narrative that everything about the U.S. is better. She knows that there are good things about being in the U.S., but also acknowledges the things about her home that were superior - like the support of her family and community and her feeling of safety.

Recommendation: Get it soon. This novel packs quite a punch and Fabiola is someone you will be glad you met.

1 comment:

  1. I have this to read and I can't wait. Thanks for the great review, now I'm looking forward to reading American Street even more.